How Mentoring Can Benefit the Specialty
Although women make up nearly half of all medical students, they represent a significantly smaller proportion of radiologists, with the 2016 ACR workforce survey revealing that only 21.4 percent of radiologists are female.
The benefits of having a diverse culture among personal and professional groups are well known, and radiology is no exception. So how do we make radiology more inviting to women and bring diversity to our field? One way is mentorship.
I have been fortunate to have many inspiring female mentors throughout my career. In fact, from a young age, I could always look to my mother, Dr. Indu Malik, who stepped into the role as a physician when it was significantly less common for women to be in the field. She fought many stereotypes and soon became a trusted physician, colleague, and part of the community. She did it all while raising a family and managing her own practice. The courage and grace with which she overcame each professional obstacle continues to inspire me in my day-to-day work. I am grateful to have had an early example of a strong female physician, and someone to whom I can always turn for guidance and encouragement.
During medical school, a female mentor drew me to radiology and helped shape my path in the specialty. After working with a breast surgeon and enjoying the patients and pathology, I met Dr. Cynthia Hanneman, a breast radiologist. I worried that radiologists sat in isolation in a dark room, but she showed me the direct patient contact breast imagers have, and the empathy I could provide as a female physician. She encouraged me to pursue the field and nurtured my interest through clinical research opportunities.
I found myself surrounded by female physician leaders in residency, where my department had many female attendings and residents. In my interview, I immediately developed a connection with Dr. Shellie Josephs, who later became my faculty advisor and guided through the professional and personal trials of residency. Dr. Josephs epitomized what I hoped to be as a female physician, seamlessly navigating a clinical interventional radiology practice and busy academic responsibilities, all while balancing the other roles in her life. Despite these demands, she always demonstrated excellence as a physician, encouraged residents, and kept a steady hand for patients. Dr. Josephs showed that women can in fact “have it all,” that we can excel professionally and personally, and I strive to emulate her focus and dedication into my practice every day.
As a breast imager, I now find myself amongst many female mentors, from my attendings in fellowship to my colleagues in private practice. Being able to count on seasoned experts who can help me grow as a physician is invaluable. Of course, not all mentors have to be female or even older. A number of younger physicians have inspired me with their professional courage, and peer-to-peer mentoring has also played an important part in my professional development. Regardless of age or gender, mentors lead by example and foster the personal and professional growth of those around them. The more we reach out and mentor the aspiring physicians in our lives, the more we strengthen our community of practice.
I recognize how lucky I am to have had strong female mentors throughout my career. They have shaped my trajectory towards radiology and propelled me forward. The women in my life have shown me how to be a leader, and how to overcome outdated ideas about the role of women in health care. They have taught me that I cannot let a perceived lack of ability or a lack of confidence stand in my way. A vibrant community exhibiting this same mentorship and advocating these same principles can help diversify our field and attract the future female leaders. I hope to pass these lessons on to the next generation of budding radiologists, and I encourage you to do the same.
Anjali Malik, MD, breast imaging radiologist at Washington Radiology (@AnjaliMalikMD)