RFS news highlights resources, issues, and news relevant to in-training members of the ACR. If you have a topic idea or would like to contribute to the blog, please email RFS Secretary Patricia Balthazar, MD.
My #Radmama Experience at ACR 2019
As I sit here typing, my 8-month-old daughter, Kadey, is sleepily breastfeeding on a horseshoe-shaped pillow on my lap. Scenes like this one are frequent in our house, as multitasking is a skill of utmost importance to any physician parent. Having had my first child during my third year of medical school, my second during intern year, and my third following my radiology core exam, I have become well-versed in the balancing act that is parenthood and medical training.
Unfortunately, in many ways medical culture has not modernized to consider these challenges, and physician parents are frequently faced with impossible choices. Earlier this year, two separate reports emerged recounting women being asked to leave major medical conferences due to the presence of their young children. Coupled with my excitement for my third ACR meeting were feelings of fear and even shame, knowing I would have Kadey with me and worrying that I, too, would be turned away. My own decision to bring her was itself a difficult one — I knew she would need to accompany me to Washington, D.C., as I was breastfeeding and unable to leave her with enough milk for a five-day trip. However, this was compounded last-minute by a medical illness limiting the capabilities of the family member who had previously agreed to watch her locally while I attended the conference.
Faced with these concerns, I reached out to Amy Patel, MD, who assured me all would be fine, and soon after that I was shaking the hand of Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, herself — who made it a point to seek us out and insist we feel welcomed at the conference. I admit I was more than a little starstruck, but more importantly I was amazed by her insistence that we feel included and supported. Multiple ACR staff members took Kadey’s picture, offered her a name badge (with “Future Radiologist” printed beneath her name and a ribbon denoting “First-Time Attendee”), directed me to open seats during sessions, and ensured I knew the location of the designated lactation room. Kadey, for the most part, was a respectful audience member — though I occasionally had to retreat to the lobby when she became restless.
Recent years have seen a heightened interest in topics relating to physician wellness and burnout. Multiple studies have demonstrated significant correlation between work-life balance and emotional exhaustion or burnout — with suggestions encouraging change within the medical system to reduce depression among physicians. Furthermore, while these issues are observed in both male and female caregivers, work-life conflicts have been found to disproportionately affect women. This idea is not a new one. Nearly three decades ago, Uhlenberg and Cooney made the following observation: “Marriage and parenting, which might be expected to impinge on physicians’ careers, actually seem to spur men’s work commitment and earnings, but have the reverse effect for women.” In a Twitterverse full of #HeForShe and #RadXX hashtags, it is uplifting to see the ACR supporting the logistical considerations that are necessary to back such movements.
Studies have also noted the impact specifically of conference attendance being limited by work-family conflicts and how it contributes to the gender-related promotion and pay gap — as well as going so far as to recommend that medical conferences be more “family-friendly.” Despite the aforementioned occasional disheartening tales, more medical societies are demonstrating movement in this direction by providing accommodations such as lactation rooms and on-site childcare at major meetings. In the future, perhaps we multitaskers will make use of live streaming of conference talks in family-friendly settings outside of lecture halls — where our children can play without being disruptive and physician parents can still observe and benefit from presented material. I, for one, am proud to be a part of an organization that is taking the lead in this movement and striving for inclusiveness that will make us stronger and more capable advocates for our patients and our profession.
Kimberly S. Winsor, MD, is a radiology resident at the University of Arizona.