Paving a Path

This year's Diversity Forum marked a look at mentorship and how imaging specialists can clear the pipeline for women and minorities.

diversity forum

Sunday of ACR 2017 kicked off with the Diversity Forum, sponsored by the Commission for Women and Diversity. Bonnie S. Mason, MD, founder and executive director of Nth Dimensions Educational Solutions, Inc., delivered the keynote address. Nth Dimension, which supports educational programming and internship programs for minorities in orthopedic medicine, has partnered with the Commission for Women and Diversity on an internship program designed to bring opportunities for medical students and radiology.

The business case for diversity is well-known and well-researched. Radiology lags behind other specialties, with 21.4 percent women and less than 10 percent underrepresented minorities (URMs). One of the reasons for this dearth of diversity is because these students often aren't exposed to subspecialties such as radiology. How can imaging specialists combat this issue? By promoting mentorships.

Mason detailed how her program supports opening the pipeline for future orthopedic students, beginning with creating demonstrations for medical students as early as their first year or even during undergraduate programs. Students are then encouraged to apply to an eight-week summer internship that occurs between the first and second years of medical school. The internships include a series of lectures, hands-on demonstrations, practical workshops, and research projects. Following that, these students are engaged in professional development programs and partnered with a mentor who works with them throughout their subsequent years in medical school.

 How well did this program work? Of the 119 summer interns, 50 applied to orthopedic residency programs; 38 of those students matched with residency programs (a 76 percent match rate).

The ACR Commission for Women and Diversity plans to create an equally effective program for medical students who may be interested in radiology. The rest of the forum was aimed at brainstorming ways to make the program most effective, while acknowledging some of the challenges standing in students’ way.

Listed below are several of the suggestions:

  • Nth Dimension and mentorship programs in general rely on stakeholder collaboration, noted Mason. Programs need to engage stakeholders at all levels, including private practices, academic departments, and medical schools. One way to help engage multiple stakeholders might be to begin outreach through the state chapters.
  • Any program should include all imaging specialists, such as radiation oncologists and medical physicists.
  • Radiologists can help open the pipeline further by looking into behavioral interviews, so that matches are not based on test scores alone.
  • Medical schools should provide additional help with scores and testing in the first year in order to aid those students who may not have as much experience with standardized testing.

It's also important to note that these suggestions can be used in any mentoring program. A guiding hand could make all the difference in reaching out to a student who could one day be critical to the radiology world.

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