February 16, 2022

Women in Radiology Spotlight: Q&A With Emily Marshall, PhD

Joelle Wazen, MD

Emily Marshall, PhD

Emily Marshall, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Radiology and Clinical Diagnostic Physicist at the University of Chicago. She also serves as faculty member on the Graduate Program Committee on Medical Physics. Dr. Marshall is co-director of the University of Chicago Diversity and Inclusion Council and founder of its Women in Radiology section.

What helped you succeed in a male-dominant field?
Surrounding myself with courageous, smart, driven women and staying true to who I am. If you attend enough trainings on this topic, eventually someone will say “be aggressive” or “always speak your mind” and other themes along these lines. That doesn’t work for me. While I am able to speak my mind, I don’t think women need to meet men where they are in the workplace. We bring something different to the table. There is power in that. So be authentic and this will bring you success.

What is your favorite part of your work?
I love the hunt for innovative solutions to imaging challenges. We have daily opportunities to detect a broken workflow, identify educational opportunities or improve a study protocol. It is invigorating to raise a clinical question, create a scientific method to test a solution, and then finally after testing and data processing, arrive at an answer. The best part is my patients will now receive better care because of it. I just love that feeling.

What has been the most challenging part of your career?
The most challenging part of my career came early on. I struggled significantly the first semester of graduate school. I kept convincing myself that I was unfit, underprepared and undeserving of the opportunities I was being given to pursue my dream career. I struggled with anxiety and did a poor job allowing others to know my pain. This made it difficult for people to help me out of the hole I was digging myself into. I was lucky to have a supportive partner at the time who uplifted me and constantly reminded me of the reasons I was pursuing my career. This has made me an aware mentor to students in their early training. I think it is here that we are most vulnerable. Based on my perspective now, I suspect many people feel similarly but unconsciously attempt to fight these feelings in isolation. I hope we can do more to support early career students and trainees.

Who do you look up to and why?
It would be impossible to choose just one person. I think you succeed in your work and personal life by identifying people to admire and appreciate across everything you do. In my experience, these people have served as northern stars and inspirations. I look to them for advice, support and empathy. I look up to them for countless reasons, but usually it’s because they radiate kindness and compassion.

What are some ways in which trainees can contribute to diversity efforts?
I think it is best to start broadly. Begin by educating yourself on the disparities within our healthcare system. See where your specialty lies in terms of a diverse workforce and other diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. This will empower you to see where work is needed.

We can all ask our leaders regarding their commitments to DEI. Inquiring provides the opportunity for them to form an awareness that this is important to us. If your department has ongoing DEI efforts, commit to them, support them. If they do not, more opportunities exist on a broader level, many universities and professional societies will have DEI offices you can contribute to (e.g., ACR® and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine).