Dr. Richard Duszak is the new chair of UMMC's Department of Radiology. Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Communications
Dr. Richard Duszak is the new chair of UMMC's Department of Radiology.
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Duszak: Ride the radiology technology wave to advance patient care

Published on Monday, September 12, 2022

By: Ruth Cummins

The short answer for why Dr. Richard Duszak took the reins of the Department of Radiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, he says, is “No. 1, the people, and No. 2, the mission.”

But the long-range answer, one that will guide all facets of the department, is to make a difference in a state with immense needs.

“We touch so many patients through imaging. It’s rare to have a patient come to the emergency room or hospital and not get a CT scan or an X-ray,” said Duszak, who began work July 1. “Radiology has truly changed the way medicine is practiced. Things that used to require exploratory surgery – a lot of those questions can be answered through imaging.”

Duszak supervises a department that includes 39 clinical providers and 33 residents. They use medical imaging to diagnose diseases and guide their treatment. Their tools are broad and many, with one area of expertise being interventional radiology, performing minimally invasive medical procedures with the guidance of imaging technology.

When considering the job, Duszak said, he was impressed with UMMC’s facilities.  The Medical Center in August 2018 opened a new Interventional Radiology suite, allowing care to be enhanced by the latest technology used by stellar specialists in a spacious and inviting treatment area.

It’s a big change over former cramped space for diagnostic and outpatient procedures.

“We have quite the spectrum of technology with regard to how state of the art it is, and how expensive,” Duszak said. “Imaging is highly, highly technologically dependent, and an expensive service to provide. We have not one, but two hybrid interventional CT rooms. We have a robotic room. The equipment is second to none.”

Some equipment in the department could use an update, but overall, “we have good equipment and the people committed to making it go as far as we can,” he said.

Before coming to the Medical Center, Duszak served as professor and vice chair for health policy and practice in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

He earned his medical degree from the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine before completing his residency in diagnostic radiology at Duke University and his fellowship in interventional radiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Duszak previously served as president and CEO of West Reading Radiology Associates in West Reading, Pennsylvania, and later as both diagnostic and interventional radiologist at Mid-South Imaging and Therapeutics in Memphis. There, he served as medical director of the Department of Radiology at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven, and director of radiology research at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation in Memphis.

He was the founding CEO of the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute in Reston, Virginia, where he later served as chief medical officer and senior research fellow, and then director of the Institute’s Imaging Policy for Analytics for Clinical Transformation (IMPACT) Research Center at Emory.

Portrait of Dr. Alan Jones

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Duszak to the Medical Center and have no doubt that he will take the department to new heights,” said Dr. Alan Jones, UMMC associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs.  “Dr. Duszak is nationally renowned in the field of radiology, not only in clinical practice, but also in research and policy.  His career is decorated with numerous accolades and service distinctions, and we are delighted to have him lead the department forward.”

Duszak’s path to radiology took a few twists and turns.

“When I was a fourth-year medical student applying for residencies, I had fully applied for anesthesiology,” Duszak remembered. “I’d always been interested in new technology. Anesthesia really checked the boxes for it being exciting to me.

“I’d had no exposure to radiology, but in my fourth year, I did an elective in radiology, and two weeks into it, I said, ‘I love this!’ I wanted to change, and I had to start my applications all over, but it was about the opportunities in radiology to have the best new technology and impact so many patients.”

Radiology is an ever-changing and exciting field of medicine, one where providers can “ride a wave of technology that has been meaningful and impactful in advancing patient care,” Duszak said.

“This journey has been fascinating. Having been in private practice for 18 years before pivoting to academic medicine, I’ve worked in a variety of health care environments,” he said.

“One of the pieces that makes each day worthwhile is working with good people who are committed to working together and collectively aimed toward the same mission and goals, in a positive culture.

“That led me to fall in love with UMMC as a place where I could really make a difference,” he said.

Duszak said the teaching component of his job will be guided by his experiences in academic medicine and almost two decades of private practice.

“One of the pieces for me, coming from private practice to an academic practice, is that I want to make sure our residents are prepared as possible to be as successful as possible,” he said. “I’d stack up our residents to any other residents in regard not just to book knowledge, but skills in taking care of patients.

“It’s not enough anymore to be a good radiologist. My goal is to create successful radiologists, and there are a lot of things that programs don’t traditionally teach. Unless you’re aware of what it takes to run the business side of the operation and navigate complex relationships, you’re never going to make your practice as successful as possible. My hope and passion are getting them thinking outside the clinical box so that they can be impactful in their practice as whole.”

Duszak and his wife Debbie, the parents of two grown daughters, live in Ridgeland. The pair likes to take walks together, and he is an avid bike rider who enjoys exploring trails. “One of these days, we’ll get back to traveling,” he said. “With my busy transition, I’m not sure what off time is, but hopefully life will settle down soon.”

His vision and strategy plan for the Department of Radiology is still a work in progress for someone who began work a little over two months ago.

“My agreement with Dr. Woodward was to take six months and really learn about the department and understand our challenges before I present to her a strategy plan,” Duszak said. “My notional vision is to create a destination department where patients will come here because they want to come here, not just because they have to come here. I want it to be a destination for faculty in a marketplace with a national shortage of radiologists.

“It’s to be a destination for learners – the residents who want to come here and be trained. And, it’s to be a destination for innovation so that we can have as much impact as possible.

“I want to take an amazingly solid department with great people and great care, and to increase our national brand and reputation so that we can have an impact not just here in Mississippi, but regionally and nationally as well.”

The Medical Center is fortunate to have someone of Duszak’s talents, Jones said.

“His enthusiasm and dedication to the betterment of the department, its patients, the Medical Center and the state as a whole is apparent to all he meets,” he said.