James F Benenati, medical director of the Noninvasive Vascular Lab, Baptist Cardiac and Vascular Institute, has recently taken up the presidency of the Society of Interventional Radiology. He told Interventional News that interventional radiologists are a highly creative and innovative group and that he took great pride in seeing his trainees excel in the field
How did you come to choose medicine as a career, and what drew you to interventional radiology?
I entered the medical field after a short career as a high school teacher. I was interested in science and medicine during college and had a particular interest in tropical medicine. I was heading for a career in tropical medicine when I accidentally ran into a neurointerventional radiologist who asked if I wanted to watch a case. I watched and was sold on it. Later, I did a rotation in radiology at Indiana University and Dr Gary Becker was an attending physician there. The group at Indiana really turned me on to interventional radiology.
Who are the people who have influenced you the most, and what advice of theirs do you follow even today?
I was influenced to enter interventional radiology by Gary Becker who I mentioned previously. My biggest role models were my father (a family doctor) and my uncle (a CT surgeon). Virtually everything I do today, and all the compassion I have towards my patients, comes from lessons they taught me. They were both phenomenal physicians and great human beings as well. Actually, my wife is also a physician (an allergist) and she has helped to shape my career by supporting all the things I do in interventional radiology.
Which innovations in interventional radiology shaped your career?
I think the Palmaz stent was the one single innovation that shaped my career more than anything else. It was in trials when I was a resident and approved as I began my career—it revolutionised peripheral arterial disease therapy.
What do you hope to achieve as president of the Society of Interventional Radiology?
There are so many goals as president because there is so much going on in healthcare and in our speciality at this time. The most important things include finding a successor for our recently deceased executive director, Pete Lauer. I also want to make sure the Society is positioned well in a competitive, endovascular world. This includes being positioned well with our standards, training programmes and with the way healthcare reform will impact our specialty.
Which developing techniques and technologies will you be watching closely in the future?
Our field is so diverse that there are a number of new innovations that we should be monitoring closely. Drug-eluting balloons and stents may have a big impact in our approach to peripheral arterial disease in the near future. Interventional oncology is a field that has a plethora of new technologies including radioembolization, drug delivery and genetic engineering.
What are your current areas of research?
My areas of interest and clinical research are in peripheral arterial disease, specifically lower extremity revascularisation and aortic aneursym therapy. I also am very involved with noninvasive testing for peripheral arterial disease, venous and carotid disease. The noninvasive lab is a very active part of my practice and research interests. I have been very active with the Intersocietal Commision for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories in the past decade and am very proud of all that this fantastic board has accomplished.
At the 2010 SIR meeting, there was a session on interventional radiologists being recognised as true innovators. Could you comment on this?
Our specialty is characterised by innovation. We were born out of necessity and we evolved rapidly because we were, and are, highly creative and innovative. There are virtually no endovascular procedures done in any organ system, including the heart that were not pioneered and innovated by interventional radiology. Looking at patents from interventional radiologists in the country, one can easily see this to be true and one can understand that the contributions to medicine by us have, in many ways, revolutionised all of medicine.
What do you think the big areas of growth in interventional radiology are?
Areas of growth include interventional oncology, women’s health, and in venous disease management. We are also still growing in peripheral arterial disease, but as not as fast as we had in the past.
As part of the Baptist Cardiac and Vascular Institute (BCVI) team, which is considered a leader in procedures such as carotid artery stenting, endovascular aneurysm repair, superficial femoral artery (SFA) intervention, and critical limb ischemia treatment, what is your approach to carotid stenting?
We are aggressive in trying to stent symptomatic patients, especially high risk patients, but we are much more conservative with asymptomatic patients. We do participate in a number of clinical trials in this area and have very strong follow-up with all of our patients.
Can you share some of the proudest moments in your career?
For me, the moments I am most proud of are when I see former fellows excelling in interventional radiology. There is nothing more gratifying than that. I have tremendous pride in our training programme for fellows here at BCVI and I feel personally close to all of our current and former fellows. I feel extremely fortunate to have made so many friends with our fellows and I cannot begin to tell you how much they have taught me.
Can you identify three key areas that the interventional radiology field must address in order to move forward?
The areas I see as critical include interventional radiologists becoming much more clinical and involved in comprehensive patient management, staying at the front edge of research and innovation and maintaining competency in an evolving field through the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) and Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) process. We have to always remember that we are serving the public and competency and continuing education are ways to ensure that we will always be at the top of our game for the patients.
What are your interests outside of medicine?
I really enjoy travelling with my family, spending time in North Carolina at our family lake house, and sports of all sorts. Basketball, football and running are particular passions. I have enjoyed watching my children participate in these sports and I love to participate in these myself. As a family we are very oriented toward water activities and we enjoy snorkelling, skiing, wakeboarding and just about anything you can do in the water!
Fellowship/Instructor, CardioVascular, Diagnostic Laboratory Division, Department of Radiology, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institution, Baltimore, USA
Department of Radiology, Indiana University Medical Center Indianapolis, USA
University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida
Postgraduate Studies, University of Florida
Diplomate, American Board of Radiology
Certificate of Added Qualification– CardioVascular and Interventional Radiology
Assistant Professor of Radiology, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida
Courtesy Associate Professor,
Biomedical Engineering Institute
Florida International University (FIU)
Bachelor of Science RVT Program,
Nova South Eastern University
Executive Positions and Board Appointments
President, Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR)
President, Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratory (ICAVL)