March 10, 2021

Women in Radiology: Anu Brixey, MD

By Julia Saltalamacchia, MD

Julia Saltalamacchia, MDWomen make up only 23% of practicing radiologists and hold an even smaller share of leadership positions within radiology departments. The Women in Radiology Q&A Spotlight is designed to highlight exceptional women in the field. This issue recognizes Anu Brixey, MD, an assistant professor in the department of radiology at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), and chair and co-founder of the OHSU Women in Radiology group.

Brixey attended medical school at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine and completed internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She then completed a three-year pulmonary and critical care fellowship at Vanderbilt University, before practicing as a pulmonary/critical care attending for four years — during which she developed an interest in thoracic imaging. She returned to training and completed a diagnostic radiology residency and cardiothoracic imaging fellowship at OHSU, where she subsequently began her radiology faculty career.

What have you found to be the most challenging in your career?
A challenge I faced throughout my life was hearing people tell me what I should or shouldn’t do — and being able to filter out the negative energy without letting it affect me. There will always be people who don’t believe in you and you must remind yourself to rise above the chatter on the ground and keep your vision and goals for yourself front and center.

How can radiology improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts in a sustainable, meaningful way?
Radiology has a long way to go to improve DEI but it is not an impossible mountain to climb if we continue at a steady, upward pace. I think the most important first steps to take are communication and recruitment. If we get the message out that radiology has acknowledged there is a DEI problem and is committed to rectifying it, then that gives our specialty an advantage over specialties that do not have as much of a DEI issue but are doing nothing to improve. The other big hurdle is recruitment. We need to go out and recruit women, underrepresented minorities and people with diverse backgrounds — and tell them what radiology actually is as a specialty.

What steps can women take to advance in leadership roles in radiology?
I truly believe that the most important thing that we as women can do is raise each other up. Many of the successes I have had have been the result of another woman raising me up. In fact, my role as chair and co-founder of the Women in Radiology group is the result of one of my women colleagues nominating me for the position.

All of us are qualified to do something we aren’t doing — often due to being overlooked. If we collectively make it a goal to find a woman who has potential, but isn’t doing something to shine, then by mentoring her or nominating her for a position, we will double the number of women in leadership roles. If we inspire and create confidence in medical students, residents or fellows, these same women will be attendings one day and will naturally be inspired to “pay it forward.”

Having a Women in Radiology group at OHSU has been a blessing to faculty, fellows and residents in our department, as well as to our medical students. A concrete step that every radiology department in the country can take is to start a Women in Radiology group to provide both professional collaboration and personal support to achieve success and overcome barriers.