John Zech, MD, MA Receives 2022 RSNA Resident/Fellow Research Grant

radiology resident

Third-year radiology resident John Zech, MD, MA, has been awarded an RSNA Research and Education Foundation Resident/Fellow Research Grant to create and test a deep learning model aimed at detecting pediatric upper extremity fractures. Zech's grant was among the top-ranked applications, and he will receive a $30,000 grant for a one-year project.

Zech’s research aims to harness artificial intelligence (AI) to improve radiologist accuracy in identifying fractures in children. While deep learning algorithms have demonstrated a strong ability to detect fractures in adults, preliminary research indicates that the models may not generalize well to children. The grant will help fund the development of a deep learning-based pediatric upper extremity fracture detection model with accuracy equivalent to human subspecialists.

Zech and colleagues have developed and deployed a web-based platform which he will use to test his model by publicly offering it to interested radiologists.

"I'm interested in finding ways to deploy AI in a hospital setting that take advantage of its amazing ability to detect features in images, and in ways that are actually useable," says Zech. "With this project we hope to develop a model capable of detecting the unique features of pediatric arm fractures and share it in an easily accessible way."

Missed fractures are the leading cause of diagnostic error in the emergency department (ED), accounting for an estimated 80 percent of all diagnostic errors in that setting. Pediatric fractures can be challenging to identify on imaging because children have open growth plates and their bones are more flexible, leading to different patterns of injury compared to adults. It has been estimated that nine percent of pediatric musculoskeletal injuries are missed on initial presentation, which can lead to long-term disability.

Zech will be mentored by Tony Wong, MD, associate professor of radiology and chief of the Division of Musculoskeletal Imaging.

“We're extremely excited for John and grateful to the RSNA for funding this exciting research," Wong said. "John has always been so passionate about his work. He is poised to become one of the future leaders of musculoskeletal AI research, and this grant is the very first step towards that.”

The award is given annually to young radiologists to gain experience and insight into scientific investigation.