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Entrepreneurial Women in Radiology


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Barriers to Success and Role Models for the Future

The revamped RFS Economics Advisory Group hosted its second journal club webinar on Sept. 11, 2018. The topic of discussion was “Entrepreneurial Women in Radiology: Barriers to Success and Role Models for the Future.” RFS members submitted questions to an expert panel comprised of Marta Heilbrun, MD, vice chair for quality in the department of radiology and imaging Sciences at Emory University, ACR BOC Chair Geraldine McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, and Kimberly E. Applegate, MD, MS, FACR, professor of radiology and imaging sciences at Emory University. A 2016 JACR® article titled, “Entrepreneurial Women in Radiology: Role Models of Success” served as a talking point from which meaningful dialogue was generated.

Radiology has historically been a field of medicine most underrepresented by women. While the percentage of women in surgery has seen gains from 2003 to 2013 (from 40.7 percent to 45.9 percent), the figure for radiology has not changed substantially during this same time period (from only 25.9 percent to 26.8 percent). The world of industry and business seem to have recognized that it would be beneficial to try to correct historical gaps in gender equity and, consequently, have been launching various equity-based initiatives. The field of radiology and imaging sciences is, however, lagging. Without thoughtful intervention to mitigate the lost opportunity of not fully leveraging the intellectual capital of women, our field will be at a disadvantage in a rapidly changing and diverse healthcare environment. The journal club tapped into the insight of such accomplished women leaders as Drs. Heilbrun, Applegate, and McGinty by means of a Q&A discussion about the role of women in radiology, and provided insight into the historical pitfalls and future outlook for women in the field.

The discussion began by placing emphasis on the importance of mentorship and support. The panelists expressed a notable paucity of role models during their early careers and explained that the role models that were available tended to be overwhelmingly male. Though there was near unanimous agreement that there has been an increase in the number of female mentors over the years, the available mentors in the field continue to be predominantly men. For this reason, it was pointed out that it is particularly important for men to take an active role in understanding barriers unique to women to become better mentors to aspiring female entrepreneurs.

The dialogue moved on to explore topics discussed in the journal article, including character traits common to successful women entrepreneurs such as an individual’s awareness of strengths and weaknesses, the proactive seeking of recognition, and strong negotiating skills. Dr. Applegate further expounded on this list by including the importance of a strong sense of curiosity and desire to learn. The willingness to take risks despite potential failure and the ability to take criticism were among other important character traits. Dr. McGinty emphasized the value of negotiating and being a skilled debater. Dr. Heilbrun further stressed the importance of fostering the development of strong negotiation skills and candidly explained that this is an area where she herself continues to seek improvement.

The conversation continued with a discussion on how to best foster these traits in women early on in their medical careers and how to increase female participation in the historically male dominated field. Dr. McGinty explained that an important component of increasing female participation is being cognizant of ways in which medical students encounter radiology. More efforts should be made to place more emphasis on the empathy and knowledge of patient factors required to be a successful radiologist. Other methods included developing lesson plans where medical students can be exposed to radiology early on in their training pipeline.

The topic of unconscious or hidden bias was also discussed in how it relates to specialty choice among female medical students. Dr. Applegate explained that societal perceptions on the expected roles of males and females may continue to play a large role in the specialty choices of modern day medical students. She explained that systemic issues are at the core of supporting women to be more entrepreneurial. In particular she expressed value in exploring the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advocacy for extension of benefits consistent with the Family Medical Leave Act to residents and interns. The importance of maintaining a certain degree of work hour flexibility during residency training to accommodate potential childbearing during residency was also discussed. Dr. McGinty noted that her institution has mandated hidden bias training as a way to raise awareness of its harmful effects.

The discussion closed with positive remarks on the progress of women in the field of radiology. Though the panelists stressed that there is still much room for improvement, the journal club webinar ended with a sense of optimism and positive outlook for the future.

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By Mark Gemender, MD, member of the RFS Economics Advisory Group.

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