Diversity in Radiology
Are we where we need to be?
The simple answer is no, and the hard truth is that overcoming this is a significant challenge, but no less imperative to the future of the success of our profession. Providing the best possible care to an increasingly diverse patient population will only be achieved when we have a similar diversity amongst our workforce in radiology. That diversity will also prove essential to adapting to the increasing complexity of the demands facing our specialty. Diversity enables an environment where differences in backgrounds, mindset, and understanding can contribute to enhanced innovation, collaboration, and problem solving. It may also help to address long-standing inequality issues within our healthcare system.
Assessing the current state of diversity in radiology, determining the necessary actions to bring about meaningful change, and enabling that change by providing tools and making the call to action — all this took place at the 2017 Intersociety Committee (ISC) Conference. Chris McAdams, MD, and David Mihal, MD, served as your elected ACR RFS representatives to take an active role in this process.
The ISC was established by the ACR in 1979 to improve communication and coordinate efforts amongst the leaders of more than 50 national radiology organizations representing diagnostic and IR, radiation oncology, and radiologic physics. The Executive Committee chooses a topic for each annual ISC conference that could have a major impact on our profession as a whole. The issues surrounding that topic are discussed, and agreed upon interventions are established and communicated not only to those in attendance, but also through the JACR®. The committee recognized the critical importance of addressing diversity in radiology for the 2017 ISC conference, as our specialty has noticeably fallen behind others that are already enacting effective proactive changes, namely orthopedic surgery.
Addressing diversity in radiology involves identifying and acknowledging our own subconscious biases and identifying institutional-level obstacles. We recognize that this is a multilevel issue, and that to address these issues within our specialty we need to reach into the pipeline. The nation’s medical student population is not representative of the population at large, as evidenced by the American Association of Medical Colleges’ admissions statistics, relative to U.S. census data. Gaps also remain in terms of gender, sexual orientation, and background — all of which are necessary in the creation of a diverse workforce that values inclusion. Any pipeline built to promote mentoring to reach these underrepresented groups must reach both our medical school and undergraduate populations and extend to the highest levels of leadership in our specialty. Progress has already begun due to the efforts of the ACR Commission for Women and Diversity, which founded the Pipeline Initiative for Enrichment of Radiology (PIER) mentoring program. This program is coordinated through Nth Dimensions™ with the aim of increasing minority medical student exposure to radiology and preparation for residency.
Although diversity must be incorporated into our education, there is no article, seminar, or web-based module that fixes any of this. We must actively foster and sustain a mindset that acknowledges and understands the implications of implicit bias, thoughtfully embraces diversity, and promotes inclusion. This call to action is about providing the best possible patient care, broadening our perspectives to help our profession grow, and promoting healthcare equity.
This is only the beginning. We have a long way to go and a lot of hard work to do. It will be worthwhile and we will become better for the changes we will be making — for ourselves and, more importantly, for our patients.
By David C. Mihal, MD, radiologist at Cleveland Clinic.