January 14, 2020

The Imperative of Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in Radiology

Dania Daye, MD, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

According to the most recent data published by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges as part of their annual National Graduate Medical Education Census, both diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology are among the top specialties in medicine with the lowest female representation in their working resident workforce. Similarly, recent published data suggests that radiology ranks 19th among 21 medical specialties for lowest numbers of under-represented monitories (URMs) in our residency programs. While many programs have been implemented in recent years locally or by radiology societies in an attempt to address these disparities, the numbers of women and URMs in our specialty remain relatively low. A more aggressive approach to increase diversity in the specialty is urgently needed.

Not only does a diverse radiology workforce lead to having a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, talents and experiences to solve our most pressing challenges, it will allow our specialty to better adapt to the continuously changing environment in medicine — from the integration of AI in the field to the changing reimbursement landscape. The business world has consistently shown that increasing diversity and inclusion promotes creativity. Companies with diverse teams contribute more innovative solutions and have better overall performance compared with companies that are not as diverse. To be better positioned in the changing healthcare landscape, it is imperative that we, as radiologists, implement both short-term and long-term measures to increase diversity and inclusion in our field. Such strategy starts by focusing on three areas: creating a robust pipeline for a diverse workforce, implementing programs for the retention and promotion of diverse members, and adopting key cultural changes in our working environments to promote inclusion.

A number of programs have been created by radiology societies to provide URMs and female medical students with early exposure to the specialty. Programs such as the ACR Pipeline Initiative for the Enrichment of Radiology (PIER) program and the Society of Interventional Radiology Grants for Education of Medical Students (GEMS) program — while still in their infancy and with not much long-term outcomes data — offer tremendous hope for creating a robust pipeline for a diverse workforce in the field. Locally, many institutions have implemented policies and programs to increase the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce and to promote a more inclusive work culture. With the increase in these initiatives in recent years, providing a formal national forum to share best practices across institutions, collaborate and scale successful models nationally is still needed. In addition, publishing a yearly radiology-wide benchmarking data report about the state of diversity and inclusion in our specialty and rigorously assessing the effect of implemented strategies and adapting as needed would tremendously aid this process.

Embracing diversity and inclusion is essential for the future of radiology. While nearly all radiology societies have implemented programs or established new committees to work on addressing this issue, the road ahead remains long and will require many cultural shifts in most institutions and practices to foster a more diverse workforce. Yet, one thing is certain: embracing diversity and inclusion is our collective responsibility. It is imperative that each radiologist champion and support this cause as an investment in the future of the specialty.