May 23, 2021

Women in Radiology: Breaking Down Barriers — Q&A With Elizabeth Trullenque, MD

Interview by Amanda P. Marrero-González, MD, Chief Resident of Diagnostic Radiology at University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine

Elizabeth Trullenque, MD
Elizabeth Trullenque, MD 

Even in 2021, the gender disparities in radiology are greater than in other fields of medicine. In an effort to bridge the gender gap in radiology, the ACR® RFS Women & Diversity Subcommittee highlights some of the incredibly talented and extraordinary women who have made a positive impact in the field of Radiology.

This edition of the RFS eNews recognizes Elizabeth Trullenque, MD, a distinguished musculoskeletal radiologist and assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, where she completed medical school and residency. She then went on to complete her musculoskeletal radiology fellowship in the University of Maryland Medical Center. She is also an active member in her community serving as girls’ den leader, STEM awards program coordinator and mentor for Scouts BSA.

What are your hobbies?
My husband and I love to travel and explore new places. Due to the pandemic, we have focused on rediscovering all the wonders our island has to offer with our son and daughter. We enjoy outdoor and nature-oriented activities such as hiking and camping and, of course, we love to relax at the beach. We also enjoy going out for dinner. We now have moved on to virtual cooking classes. My husband does most of the cooking and I am the sous-chef. Our children are also involved, and we now have two little chefs in our house.

Who do you look up to and why?
I look up to my parents. My parents had to endure hardships when they were younger. My father is an immigrant who fled his native country in the middle of a crisis, and my mother lost her parents at a young age. They were able to overcome these hardships and raise my brothers and me in a loving and healthy environment. I never felt I lacked anything while I was growing up, but I always knew that all that was provided to me was made possible through their hard work and sacrifice. I always felt that I was capable of doing whatever I wanted if I worked hard and persevered. I want to be that kind of role model for my children and trainees.

Which personal characteristic has been the most important for your success in a male-dominated field?
Without doubt, the most important personal characteristic is empathy followed by grit. Empathy has allowed me to understand how others are feeling, their backgrounds and experiences, so I am able to respond appropriately to a given situation. Grit has helped me persist in the things that I am passionate about and persevere, in spite of the obstacles I have had to face. Finally, I would say resilience.

What is the favorite part of your work?
I am very passionate about what I do, and I strive to do my best always. I love being able to transmit my passion for musculoskeletal radiology to my trainees. I also cherish watching them grow professionally and celebrate their achievements and advancements in the field.

What is the most important advice you have for trainees?
The most important advice is to work toward achieving a balance in your life. Simplify your life and be intentional in your choices. This way you will grow as an individual, safeguard your mental health and well-being, and manage the setbacks that may come your way, both personally and professionally. I also advise to always strive to do your best, every single day, and to work for something more than your personal success. I believe in service for the greater good.

What has been the key to the success of your diversity efforts?
I believe each of us has something valuable to bring to the table, and there is something you can learn from everybody. I try to learn something new every day. I learn from my colleagues, my trainees, my children and sometimes from unexpected sources. As a leader and mentor, I strive to empower people. If you encourage and inspire, people want to work with you and help you achieve your goals. We need to continue reaching out. We are currently doing this through interest groups and mentorship in medical school, but there is still a long way to go. A couple years ago, I was surprised to read that our country was falling behind in STEM-related areas, so I believe it is important to work not only with this generation but the future ones as well. I am also an advocate for our youth and, in particular, a STEMinist.