Diversity and Inclusion in IR
As co-chair of the Society of Interventional Radiology’s Diversity and Inclusion committee and a member of the ACR Commission on Women and Diversity, diversity and inclusion in radiology, particularly in IR, is an important topic to me.
Diversity efforts have a practical impact in IR. Many of the diseases that we treat at IRs tend to be prevalent in the African-American community. Uterine fibroids, for example, primarily affect African American women. Other examples are disease processes related to chronic hypertension, such as renal failure (dialysis) and lower extremity atherosclerotic disease, which primarily affect people of color.
As we are all aware, many other specialties have the ability to perform these procedures. Many of us have experienced the loss of arterio-venous fistula or graft declot procedures or lower extremity arterial vascular work to our competitors. This happens despite our ability to perform the procedures safer and more economically.
How do we leverage diversity and inclusion so that we can better serve our patient population? One potential avenue is to better understand our patients’ needs. It has been well-documented that patients describe a higher level of satisfaction with their medical care when that care is provided by a physician who looks like them. While you don’t have to have a uterus to understand how to treat uterine fibroids, for example, many women prefer female physicians. Further, many African-Americans have a significant amount of distrust of the medical system, which often does not do enough to protect them (differences in pain medicine between black and white patients in the ED, for example).
I am very clear that there are places where there are no female physicians or physicians of color who can provide IR services. Given that patients have choices in whom they choose to trust with their healthcare, how can a white male IR develop trust with female patients or patients of color? Training in cultural sensitivity and understanding unconscious bias are great ways to start. The ACR and the Society of Interventional Radiology both offer SAMs and CME-accredited courses on both of these topics. If we as a medical society make it a priority to have every radiologist trained in these two areas, for example, we could use that as leverage to convince women and people of color that we have taken extra steps to understand their lives and how to better serve them, which none of our medical competitors can currently claim. Further, this would be a great way to increase public exposure to our specialty (how many times have you had to explain what an IR is?) Most importantly, I believe our patient satisfaction would significantly increase, regardless of the demographics of the physician or patient.
Derek L. West, MD, MS, is acting associate professor in the department of radiology and imaging sciences at Emory University.