Jinel A. Scott, MD, MBA, American College of Radiology® (ACR®) General Radiology Improvement Database Committee member and Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Member Representative to the Radiology Health Equity Coalition, contributed this post.
Many of us who work in healthcare have witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of the barriers to care faced by medically underserved communities in the United States, and these inequities compel us to act.
Last week during RSNA 2021, the world’s largest annual radiology forum, thousands of attendees and I were encouraged to see that the eight radiology organizations who are collaborating in the Radiology Health Equity Coalition continue to demonstrate our commitment to address health disparities. There were 30 sessions and more than 20 scientific presentations, posters and exhibits focused on health equity during RSNA 2021. From trainee sessions to teach and inspire future radiologists and leaders to effect change, to sessions addressing the important considerations that must be built into the design and delivery of informatics and artificial intelligence advancements, health equity was a consistent theme across all five days of the conference. At the conclusion of one session, “A Primer for Health Equity Research: Essential Skills for Health Equity & Disparities Research in Radiology,” participants were eager to ask questions and continue the conversation — even at the end of a very long day of programming.
The coalition also recognizes that lack of a diverse physician workforce can negatively impact patient-physician interactions, access to care and ultimately outcomes. The RSNA Committee on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion session “The Experiences of Black Radiologists” delineated the history of exclusion of black physicians from radiology and radiation oncology while highlighting the gains made in the last decade to diversify the radiology workforce. Presentations by both Curtiland Deville, MD, and Iris Gibbs, MD, FACR, FASTRO, revealed that these gains were not realized in radiation oncology which has gotten less diverse during this time period. Particularly inspiring was the plenary session by Michele Johnson, MD on “Ensuring an Inclusive, Respectful Workplace” in which she used neuro-interventional anecdotes as analogies to describe the types of obstruction she faced in her career and methods she used to overcome them.
We are eager to keep the momentum going and confident that together we can put patients' safety, health and welfare first by reducing disparities and improving health outcomes for all populations, including those who have been marginalized. The ACR, RSNA and our fellow coalition members recognize that radiologists are uniquely positioned to help eliminate disparities in healthcare, because medical imaging touches most patients at some point. Our consultative role across the care process, and particularly in medical education, creates an opportunity to drive systemic change to achieve consistent, high-quality and equitable care for all.