In 1951, the Society of Radiographers of South Africa (SORSA) was founded by Ms 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 the Society for a period of ten years from 1951 to 1961 and then again from 1963 to 1974 (the term, ‘President’ was adopted in 1975).
The gold and diamond brooch now worn by the president as the president’s badge was initially presented to May Tompkins for her services to radiography and she left it to the Society. When she died, her solicitors apparently asked for the brooch but being the good secretary that Evelyn was, she had kept the letter in which May Tompkins had told of her intentions and she (Evelyn Tyrer) was able to send the solicitors a copy.
The main focus of the Society in the early years was to do with 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 Education. 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 the Society. She was elected to the first Professional Board for Radiography in 1974.
The Society 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 the National Council. Not too long thereaftera branch was established in Bellville and the structure of the 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 now 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 Council member for South Africa on the ISRRT. Iona Ruscheniko later served as ISRRT Council member followed by Fozy Peer (1998 to 2006) and Aladdin Speelman (2006-2011). Marita Horak was re-elected as President in 1994 and served until 1996.
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. The Society actively motivated for the change of a two year diploma to the present three year curriculum in the 1970s. The Society at its own cost developed the curricula for the 3 year national diplomas in diagnostic, radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and certificate in ultrasound.It was thanks to the initiative and hard work of a number of Society 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 for Radiographers on the SAMDC.
In 1990 Betsie Swart served as President followed by Annarie Hugo from 1991-1992. She also served on the Professional Board.
Leonie Munro served on various positions both at Branch level and on council before taking over the presidential reigns from 1992 to1994. Leonie continues to work tirelessly for the Society and is currently the national treasurer and editor-in-chief of the official Society publication, The South African Radiographer. This is a peer reviewed publication, published since 1959. 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 programs. Leonie Munro ably manages the SA Radiographer 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 Professional Board for Radiographers at the HPCSA has been the lengthy negotiations (from the early 1980s to 1993) that finally allowed radiographers to open private practices. The Society at major cost, compiled the private practice tariffs for private practice diagnostic radiographers.
Initially private practice was only limited to diagnostic radiographers, followed by rights to private practice for all radiographic categories in 2006.
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 to2000 and 2002 to 2004. She was nominated by the Society to serve on the Professional Board for Radiography from 1995-1998 and was re-elected from 2004-2010. After representing the Society as Council member on ISRRT from 1998-2006 she was elected on to the ISRRT Board of Management as Director of Public Relations for 2 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.
Mari Bruwer from Bloemfontein served as president from 2000-2002. Jenny Motto during her tenure as president from 2004 to 2006 was head of radiography at the University of Johannesburg. Aladdin Speelman, a lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) was the first male to serve as president from 2006 to 2008. He also represented South Africa as Council member on the ISRRT.
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 is currently the associate professor and director of the School of Health Technology at the Central University of Technology in the Free State. Her term of office as president expires in 2012.
The first congress of the Society in September 1972 was organised by June McIntosh and a few other 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 the Society. The National Congresses were hosted by the branches on a rotational basis every two years. In the intervening years smaller seminars on various topics including professional advancement, education, ethics and management are 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, the Society invited the Radiological Society of South Africa (RSSA) to host their congress at the ISRRT World Congress held in Durban. In 2011 the Society (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 hope to continue working together.