In 1951, the Society of Radiographers of South Africa (SORSA) was founded by May W Tompkins a pioneer in radiography training and practice in South Africa. She spent the major part of her career as tutor at the training school for radiographers at the Johannesburg General Hospital and on her retirement was the founding tutor at Coronation Hospital. During her distinguished career she served as chairman of SORSA for a period of ten years from 1951-1961 and then again from 1963-1974 (president replaced the use of chairman in 1975). The gold and diamond brooch now worn by the president as the president’s badge was initially presented to her for her services to radiography. She left the brooch to the Society.
The main focus of SORSA in the early years was radiography training. South Africa followed the British model where their Society was the examining body. In the early years of training all students wrote the British Society of Radiographers exams. It was only after about ten years that an examination was finally offered by the South African Department of National Department. In 1977 this function was taken over by the tertiary institutions such as the technikons and some universities. Joyce Runnals who served SORSA in many capacities was elected chairman in 1961. She was responsible for submitting the radiotherapy syllabus to the then Department of National Education. She was also instrumental in drawing up of the constitution of SORSA. She was elected to the first Professional Board for Radiography in 1974. SORSA was pivotal in motivating for recognition of radiography as a profession and the need for a professional board with the former statutory body, the South African Medical and Dental Council (SAMDC) now the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Registration for radiographers with the SAMDC was made compulsory in the seventies. Liaison between SORSA and the HPCSA is important as it provides an avenue for members to make representations to the statutory body. SORSA was instrumental in the motivation for professional parity in the public sector for all racial groups during the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1974 at the general meeting of the 3rd radiographers’ congress, a new constitution was accepted.
An interim council was nominated until the 1st national elections were held in 1975 where Evelyn Tyrer was elected national president. The 1st national council meeting was held in May 1975. Evelyn also served on the Board of Management of the International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists (ISRRT) and was elected secretary for the Europe-Africa region in 1973. It was mainly due to her efforts that the South African radiographers enjoyed reciprocity with so many countries. By the mid-seventies, SORSA had branches in Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth. Each branch had a representative on national council. Not too long thereafter a branch was established in Bellville; shortly thereafter the structure of national council was changed to accommodate representation for the different radiography categories.
Elizabeth Stephenson served on national council from 1974. She started up the then OFS Branch, later known as the Bloemfontein Branch. She served as president from 1977-1979. In 1979, Marita Horak took over the reigns as president until 1982 and also served as the council member for South Africa on the ISRRT. Iona Ruscheniko later served as the ISRRT council member followed by Fozy Peer (1998-2006) and Aladdin Speelman (2006-2010). Marita Horak was re-elected as SORSA president in 1994 and served until 1996. Marita Horak was chairperson of the SAMDC-RCT Board in the 90s. SORSA played an important role in radiographic education and made recommendations regarding the radiographic syllabus and was involved in establishing nuclear medicine and ultrasound training. SORSA actively motivated for the change of a two-year diploma to a three-year curriculum in the 1970s. SORSA, at its own cost, developed the curricula for the three-year national diplomas in diagnostic, radiotherapy, nuclear medicine, and 18-month certificate in ultrasound. It was thanks to the initiative and hard work of a number of SORSA members that these courses were offered in the late 1970s.
Thelma Hochschild (president 1982-1985) and Joan Anthony (president 1986- 1989) were instrumental in negotiating with overseas societies to allow our members entry to their societies. This was significant when the societies were the examining bodies and membership of a society was sometimes an essential employment requirement. This has changed in recent times as most countries now have registering bodies that assess the foreign qualifications. Joan also served as member on the professional board (PB) for radiographers on the SAMDC. In 1990 Betsie Swart served as president followed by Annarie Hugo from 1991- 1992. She also served on the PB.
Leonie Munro served on various positions both at branch level and on council before taking over the presidential reigns from 1992-1994. Leonie continues to work tirelessly for SORSA and is currently (2021) the national treasurer and editor-in-chief of The South African Radiographer, published by SORSA, since 1995. Leonie will be stepping down from this position at the end of 2021. The journal was launched in 1959 and issue 59 was published in May 2021. The journal has been a peer reviewed publication since 1995. It is an important source of information for members. From the late 1970s up to the mid-1990s, the editors were Joan Irving and Jane Sproule. Back in those days there were no facilities for computer generated labels so each branch distributed the journals with hand written address labels. Following the introduction of continuing professional development, the journal offers directed reading programmes. Leonie Munro has ably managed the journal in her role as editor-in-chief assisted by a team of sub-editors.
One aspect of the liaison and representation by SORSA on the PB of the SAMDC (now the HPCSA) was the lengthy negotiations (from the early 1980s-1993) that finally allowed radiographers to open private practices. SORSA at major cost compiled the private practice tariffs for private practice diagnostic radiographers. Initially private practice was limited to diagnostic radiographers but since 2006 it includes all radiographic categories.
Brenda Rees who hailed from Port Elizabeth was involved with student training. She served as president from 1996-1998. Fozy Peer served two terms as president of SORSA – from 1998 to 2000 and 2002-2004. She was nominated by SORSA to serve on the PB from 1995-1998 and was re-elected from 2004-2010. After representing SORSA as its council member on ISRRT from 1998-2006 she was elected on to the ISRRT Board of Management as Director of Public Relations for two consecutive terms of office from 2006-2010 and 2010-2014. She was also convenor of the first ever ISRRT World Congress to be held in Africa in Durban, South Africa in 2008. Fozy was the president of the ISRRT from 2014 to 2018.
Mari Bruwer from Bloemfontein served as president from 2000-2002. Jenny Motto during her tenure as president from 2004-2006 was head of radiography at the University of Johannesburg. Aladdin Speelman, then a lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) was the first male president of SORSA from 2006-2008. He also represented South Africa as a council member on the ISRRT from 2006 to 2010. Aladdin was elected the chairperson of the professional board for radiography and clinical technology (RCT) of the HPCSA from 2015 to 2020.
Yogi Govender served on her local branch at various levels before representing radiotherapy on Council and went on to serve as President from 2008-2010. She was succeeded by Hesta Friedrich-Nel in 2010. Hesta’s term of office as president ended in 2012. Hesta has been the ISRRT representative since 2011. In April 2014, Hesta Friedrich-Nel was elected as the ISRRT regional coordinator for education in Africa. Ferial Isaacs, a lecturer at CPUT, was elected president in 2012, where she served until 2014. In 2014, Belinda van der Merwe from Bloemfontein Branch served as president until 2016. Heidi Richter took over the reins from 2016 to 2018 and was succeeded by Ashnie Ramkhelawan from 2018-July 2021. In August 2021, Riaan van de Venter took over as president and their term of office will end in 2025.
In January 2019, a new constitution came into effect, where the structure of SORSA was amended. National council supported the dissolution of local branches and opted for a central administrative structure with representation at provincial level.
The first congress of SORSA in September 1972 was organised by June McIntosh and a team of radiographers from around the country. It was held in Durban at the old “Blood Bank” in Prince Street and proved to be a great success. This was the first of many national congresses. Apart from providing information, the congresses were probably one of the activities that got radiographers from the various centres talking and created an interest in SORSA. The national congresses were hosted by the branches on a rotational basis every two years (biennial). In the intervening years smaller seminars on various topics including professional advancement, education, ethics and management were offered. Due to the commonality of subject matter and vendors, since 2006, SORSA has held joint congresses with the radiologists. In 2006 we were invited by the ISRRT to host a radiography tract at the International Congress of Radiologists which was held in Cape Town. In 2008, SORSA invited the Radiological Society of South Africa (RSSA) to host their congress at the ISRRT World Congress held in Durban. In 2011 SORSA and RSSA combined to hold the first joint congress of the two societies where the administration and congress financials were shared in proportion to the respective number of delegates. This was a very successful joint venture and we continued working together for many years thereafter rotating the congresses through different venues. The last joint RSSA-SORSA congress was in 2019. The next congress was cancelled as South Africa like every other country in the world was hit by the pandemic, Covid-19.
SORSA has since opted to host virtual symposia while the different strains of the Covid virus reign. Registration to the symposia has thus far been free for all local and international delegates. SORSA was able to secure speakers both nationally and internationally who presented on a variety of topics of interest to most radiographers. To date > 500,000 delegates have attended the 15 national congresses, five joint congresses, the ISRRT world congress in 2008, branch CPD events offered over more than 40 years, education and management workshops, and the virtual symposia. SORSA provides members with a range of free online directed reading programmes on its CPD platform. SORSA actively encourages the CPD of radiographers.
SORSA is committed to enhancing transparency in dealings with members, professional groups and organisations. SORSA has participated in and provided input at many different and diverse forums, for example, Pan African Congress of Radiology and Imaging (PACORI) meetings, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the IAEA and the ISRRT. SORSA is considered a valued member and has not only attended but played an integral role at ISRRT council meetings.
In 2012, the Bonn Call for Action was launched during a radiation safety conference by WHO and IAEA. EuroSafe then followed at the European Congress of Radiology in 2014. Africa could not afford to be left behind and AFROSAFE was launched on in February 2015 at the 8th biennial PACORI meeting. Introduction to the Afrosafe campaign followed in 2017 in Durban at the joint SORSA-RSSA congress. The South African AFORASAFE chapter started in 2018.
SORSA is currently participating in the national IAEA-TC project for establishing Diagnostic Reference Levels (DRLs) in South Africa whereby developing the methodology and plan for national DRLs. Angela Moonsamy represents SORSA on this project. SORSA participates in stakeholder meetings of the HPCSA-RCT board. Recently input was provided to the board on forensic radiography.
In November 2020 SORSA submitted comments to the National Department of Health on the proposed amendments to regulations defining the scope of the profession of radiography published in the government gazette 43632 number 907. In August 2021 SORSA submitted comments as regards the ‘certificate of need’ (CoN). SORSA supports the initiative to improve access to healthcare for all, especially those in underserved areas, however, SORSA has expressed concern that the proposed draft regulations have gaps and do not adequately consider radiographers.
SORSA is the only professional radiographic association in Africa which publishes a professional journal, the SA Radiographer, with circulation locally as well as in neighbouring countries and overseas. As the only professional body representing all radiographic categories in South Africa, SORSA strives to improve technical and ethical standards within the profession, while offering its members the opportunity for both personal and professional growth.
SORSA is proud of its achievements since 1951 and thanks present and past members for their valuable contributions to the profession and service delivery to the public.