Being a radiologist today can feel a bit like being on the Starship Enterprise: you have all these Star-Trek-like tools at your disposal – devices and applications with the ability to produce incredibly sophisticated digital images and insights that we couldn’t have imagined even twenty years ago. This technology and advanced visualization capabilities have fundamentally changed the way we obtain important diagnostic information and provide value for patients. But the reality is, it gets lonely in space. Behind this technology are people – and people still seek a meaningful human exchange, especially patients undergoing potentially stressful imaging exams. The irony of our situation is that, for all of us humans in the imaging spaceship, technology has become a barrier to meaningful care, even as the images that technology helps us acquire wield unprecedented clinical value.

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about radiology’s “image problem.” Survey after survey shows that many patients don’t fully understand what radiology is or what a radiologist does, and in a healthcare environment increasingly focused on demonstrating value, that’s certainly a reason to be alarmed. But there’s something happening right now that could help with radiology’s image problem: more radiologists are starting to run for public office.

For small rural hospitals such as McCurtain Memorial Hospital in Idabel, Okla., an on-staff radiologist is a luxury. After losing its single in-house radiologist, the facility floated between several different teleradiology providers before finally landing on vRad—largely due to vRad’s strong breast health portfolio.

The radiology job market has had its fair share of ups and downs, as one can see by simply scanning the last 15 years of data from Merritt Hawkins, a popular physician search firm. In 2003, radiology was the No. 1 most requested search assignment at Merritt Hawkins. The top of the mountain in terms of demand. That period also marked a huge increase in the supply of radiologists as both medical students and residents liked the specialty’s high quality of life as well as its potential for high earnings.

Once considered some of the most contractually stable and fiscally secure practitioners in all of U.S. medicine, radiologists are today concerned about their very future—and more than a few are right to be worried. From nosediving reimbursement to successive consolidation, from constantly expanding technologies to fitfully pinballing policymaking, the pressures have been varied and unrelenting for years now. What’s more, the pace of change is even now only accelerating. How best to rise to this moment with realistic hopes of emerging stronger than ever?