Martha Pickett (left) and Shirley Ledbetter (right) Both were prominent educators and discussed together their roles and experiences with the SWCSNM-TS.

Martha Pickett (left) and Shirley Ledbetter (right)
Both were prominent educators and discussed together their roles and experiences with the SWCSNM-TS.

CONFERENCE CALL BETWEEN SHIRLEY LEDBETTER and MARTHA PICKETT (both past Technologist Section Presidents)

MS. LEDBETTER: I'm Shirley H. Ledbetter, and I was President of the Southwestern Chapter Technologist Section from 1977 to 1978.

MS. PICKETT: I'm Martha Pickett, and I was the President of the Section from 1991 to 1992. How did you get involved in Chapter leadership, Shirley?

MS. LEDBETTER: I first became involved in the Society of Nuclear Medicine Technologist Section in the early 70’s when I was a nuclear medicine technologist working at the VA Medical Center. Before you become a leader in a professional group or any group, you first have to be a participant, and that's what I was for a number of years. I enjoyed going to the meetings, and my first meeting was in New Orleans, Louisiana, and I enjoyed the professional contact with my peers and with other members in the profession. I felt like this was what I wanted to do, to really become a part of the Society.

MS. PICKETT: I became involved with Chapter leadership in about the mid '80s, and I was the president of our Arkansas society—the Nuclear Medical Technologists of Arkansas (NMTA). As President, they sent you to the Chapter meeting. And though this was not the first Chapter meeting I had attended, it was the first one at which I had to give a report. So I went to that meeting, and Jim Wirrell, who was either President or President-Elect of the National SNM Technologist Section, was there, and he suggested that I run for something at the Chapter level because they were looking for people to fill the ballot the next year. So I said that I would run for the Program Chair position. 

Back in those days the Program Chair was an elected position, and the idea was that if I won it, I would be developing the program for the year the meeting was in Little Rock. As it turns out, I did win it, but the meeting wasn't in Little Rock. They had some sort of a scheduling conflict or something, so the meeting in Little Rock didn't happen for about two or three years later than we expected. But this meeting that I chaired was in Houston, and that was my first involvement with Chapter leadership. The next time I ran for office, I thought—well—I’ll just run for National Council Delegate, and it was a good thing I didn't win. I ran against Shirley. She beat me, but after I went to the first National Council meeting, I thought, “Oh, my gosh. I would have been eaten alive here!” And the next year after that, I finally did run for President and was elected. I followed Deborah Merten as President, so it was ‘91-‘92.

MS. LEDBETTER: I consider the highlights of my time with the Southwestern Chapter and what I'm most proud of as being part of the growth and development of the Southwestern Chapter and the Southwestern Chapter Technologist Section. Reflecting back on all these years, I'm very proud to have been a part of that. And I’m also proud that I’ve been able to influence other technologists as they've come along in our nuclear medicine technologist program and also in Shreveport. Also, seeing our Chapter students to become professionally involved in the Society of Nuclear Medicine is rewarding.

MS. PICKETT: I would say pretty much the same thing as Shirley. It’s gratifying to look at how the profession has evolved over time and—having been involved with students now for nearly 20 years—to watch and see what many of them have done. I think one of the proudest things, at least in regard to the Chapter, was that one time I think we had five presidents from the National come from our Chapter, and almost one after the other. That was pretty exciting, so that was the thing that made me the most proud—to come from a Chapter that had such good representation in the Technologist Section.

MS. LEDBETTER: Regarding the disappointments or failures or disasters that come to mind during our years with the Chapter…
I don't know that it's so much a disaster, but I think a disappointment is that when I was actively involved in the Southwestern Chapter Technologists Section leadership, we really had very strong local nuclear medicine groups. We had the Ark-La-Tex technologist group in Shreveport. There was a group in Little Rock and in Houston and Dallas, and they were very active, and there was a lot of grassroots activity, and they would come to the Chapter meeting and present their activities. It seems like we had a lot more local involvement then. As I look at it today, those local organizations meet infrequently, and it just doesn't seem like we have a lot of grassroots growth like we did in years past.

MS. PICKETT: And I think that's unfortunate because you develop your own leadership skills at the grassroots level, and that's what makes you have something to work with when you start to go up to the Chapter, and then, hopefully, on to the National level. 

As far as a disaster, I can think of a sort of a funny disaster. It wasn't during my leadership year—it was kind of in between. We had our 1989 meeting in Little Rock, and I remember that for that year the Executive Director and the President had decided that they would open up the evening event on Saturday, which we usually paid for. It's usually 35-40 dollars. There wouldn't be any charge for it because only a few people came and when I say few, you know, maybe 30 or 40, something like that. So they just weren't going to charge for it. They thought we could afford it. 

Well, unfortunately if you have a free meal, it is going to be very well attended, and I remember showing up at that event, and the line went out of the door, around the corner, and the hotel ran out of food. They didn't have enough. They didn't have enough seating or anything. It was just unbelievable. It was pretty funny. It was funnier after it happened than when it was going on at the time, but I think they had to get back in the kitchen and really crack the whip to get more food to come out, but that was one of the funniest disasters. Now, others in the leadership might remember it as having a different cause, but that's what I remember. 

MS. LEDBETTER: There are several outstanding people that come to mind during my contact with the Chapter leadership. Martha is one of those, and we've met each other professionally and really have developed good collaborative relationships between our schools and then with the Chapter. 
Also Art Hall is from our Southwestern Chapter region, and he has really grown in his profession and Brad Pounds is another one who was in nuclear medicine technology, went into management and now is commercially involved with Bristol-Myers Squibb Imaging. 

We have Terri Boyce, who was also from this area and went on to become President at the National level. Lynn Roy is another one that kind of got her roots in the Southwestern Chapter, in New Orleans, and has gone on to California and later became President of the National Technologist Section.

MS. PICKETT: Shirley was the first person I met outside my own local chapter, and she was more influential than what she might have remembered. Shirley had called up to UAMS to get Dr. Boyd to give a talk on white cell labeling. He couldn't do it, and since I was working on it as a technologist, she said, “Well, why don't you come on down?” So I did, and I remember it was just the friendliest group of people that I had ever met. She was just so nice. 

I think it was at an Ark-La-Tex technologists meeting that she struck me as just the friendliest person, and then the next year, I ran for an office and everything, and I don't know if she remembers all that or not. 
But I certainly I know that Art Hall was the first person I even knew of in leadership in the Chapter, more than even the Presidents because he always came to the business meeting with this big book that he had from the National Council meeting, and, I mean, he saved everything, and he reported everything. And then he had the book of members. And if you weren't on that list, by golly, he wanted you to come up there and check your name and join right then, and he just always was so enthusiastic about it, so I specifically remember him. 

A person in leadership that I admired very much was Terri Boyce, even though she's out of the Chapter now. When she was the President, I admired her style very much, and she was President right when we were going through healthcare reform nationally—very, very tumultuous times. We were in a great deal of upheaval in the professional associations, and I thought she handled that whole situation very proactively, but with grace. She took a difficult situation and came up with solutions and was always just so pleasant.
Outside of this Chapter, one of the most influential people that I just about admire the most, would be Marcia Boyd. The first time I met her, she came and did the first site visit of our school in '85, and she exemplified the kind of person not only in leadership but what she's done afterward as far as contributing her expertise, her encouragement, and her mentoring. She is just such a very positive role model, and I just think the world of her. 

MS. LEDBETTER: What I consider unique about the Southwestern Chapter is the loyalty of its members, and we've been involved in the Chapter, gosh, since the '60s, and I love going to the meetings and seeing young faces, but also those loyal members that we see every year. And I also enjoy the good commercial vendor support. They seem to always support us, and we always can ask for donations even on the local level. They don't hesitate about supporting locally as well as at the Chapter level. 

I also appreciate the good student involvement. I really enjoy that, and we always bring our students to the Southwestern Chapter meeting, and now as we participate with the University of Arkansas program, we always see their students there. We see that foundation being built while they're in training, hoping that when they get out on their own, this is one thing they'll want to do—take part in their professional meetings. Also I really appreciate the good administrative support that we have now. It's not always been there, but we think that we've been very fortunate that now we do have good administrative leaders.

MS. PICKETT: Right. I agree with everything that Shirley has said. I had opportunities when I was President at the National level to visit a lot of chapters, and I think that we are so lucky that we have a Chapter in which the technologists and the physicians and the scientists work together very well. Unfortunately, I have seen some chapters in which there is a lot of discord. There are chapters in which there's not very strong executive leadership, and we've really just been so fortunate that we don't have those kind of problems. As a result, for the most part, we're seen as a fairly strong chapter. 

Along these lines, I remember that there was a technologist that I was running against at the National level, and she made the comment that when she saw that whoever she was running against was from the Southwestern Chapter, she thought, “Oh, no, this is hopeless now because they always win everything.” I thought that was pretty funny, but I think that’s a good feeling to know that you've got a good, strong Chapter that works well together, and it is really fun to go to the meeting every year. You see a lot of the same people, and you see new faces. I enjoy it very much.

MS. LEDBETTER: My Chapter involvement included, like I said previously, being Secretary/Treasurer of the Southwestern Chapter Technologist Section and eventually President and also other offices, but having that background really opened the doors to do other things. For example, I was Chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee at the National level. Also I've been able to serve on the NMTCB board because of the involvement at the Chapter level, and I was selected for the technologist’s advisory group, which is a DuPont activity getting feedback from technologists. So Chapter involvement really has opened doors for other things.

MS. PICKETT: I would echo everything Shirley says, but I think that the activities that I am the most proud of that did come, of course, from moving up through the ranks, of the NMTCB. That was a very productive activity in which I always left the meeting knowing that you had produced something that was going to be useful to others. I chaired the NMTCB for a couple of years, and was exam chair. 

No doubt being the president of the National Technologists Section was an experience of a lifetime. It was something that I think gave me a perspective beyond just that of our profession—a good perspective in health care. And it was also very interesting because I got to travel and meet a lot of different people and see a lot of different departments. 

And it's always amazing to see how much alike we are everywhere in the world as far as how we do nuclear medicine. We might not speak the same language, but they do nuclear medicine very much the same way we do. They have the same products. They have the same equipment. That was a very interesting first-hand observation. 

More recently, I think, the nuclear medicine school has been rewarding. Our school has been at UAMS since the early '70s and had a hiatus for a few years, and then reactivated in 1985. More recently, with our on-line program, we’ve been able to try something really innovative and new toward expanding the student base. And the ability to have students in other places makes it sort of like having more friends in a lot of other places. 

I know a whole lot more people in the Chapter than I ever would have otherwise, and I think it's very enjoyable to go around to our different cities where we have our students and to see how they're doing and to meet the technologists there, and I think it sort of addresses a pretty severe technology shortage as well. Incidentally, I would not have ever done that if that had not been for Shirley. Doing the on-line program was a life-changing event. I don't know if I'd ever do it again, but you jump into things that you have no idea how hard it's going to be, and when you come out the other side, all right, you're glad you did it. But knowing what you know now, would you do it again? It'd be hard to say. 
But it was Shirley, who at a Fall Chapter meeting was talking to Paul Thaxton and me about her school and saying that it was just getting more and more difficult to keep it up. I remember she made the comment, “Well, Martha, you know how to do things on-line. Why don't you just teach us on-line? We'll be clinic sites. How about that?” I responded, “Well, all right. I guess we could do that.” Boy, little did I know what we were getting into. Starting our on-line program was a huge change professionally for me.

MS. LEDBETTER: I believe the future direction of nuclear medicine is going to be in molecular imaging. That's why our name is changing to molecular imaging, it seems. Not only PET, but also its application with CT or combining it with CT, and other modalities. And I really like the idea of being able to image tissue with one radiopharmaceutical and then be able to treat disease, you know, with the same compound but with a different radionuclide for the therapeutic action. I hope that that is going to be our future direction in nuclear medicine.

MS. PICKETT: I think whatever our future direction is, that in the near future, it’s certainly PET. PET is very, very promising, but I think we have to remember that we're always bound by the technology and by reimbursement. All we need is for CT to do a better job of cardiac imaging, and that will change the face of what we do, or as we've seen more recently, once reimbursement came in for PET, that has changed the face of what we do in a in a positive way. So I think right now our future is looking very good. I think there’s molecular imaging and therapy holds a lot of promise as well. Also, I think that there's going to be some major strides in neurological imaging. But we have to remember that we must keep moving forward, and we can't rest on our laurels. 

I think the future is very positive, but I've seen a lot of lot ups and downs, and I remember that ten years ago there were a lot of people who said, “Oh, nuclear medicine is dead.” And it certainly is not, and this is probably one of the most active, dynamic, and exciting times in the profession that I can remember since I began. And I began working in nuclear medicine in 1975, so I think it's really exciting, especially with PET. I think PET has just some marvelous possibilities.