ACR Bulletin

Covering topics relevant to the practice of radiology

A Different Strategy

Here are 10 steps you can take as a radiologist to promote health equity in your own work.

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Ensuring health equity for patients begins with creating an inclusive environment in our own workplaces.

—Peter F. Abraham, MD
August 01, 2023

Filling in for Jacqueline A. Bello, MD, FACR, guest columnist Peter Abraham, MD, addresses how you can promote health equity in your own work. 

Radiologists play a crucial role in healthcare by interpreting medical images and providing critical information for diagnosis and treatment. This month, the Bulletin kicks off a five-part series about how physicians in our field and related specialties are making a difference in the quest for health equity. You can learn more about their work in "Exploring Radiology's Role in Advancing Health Equity" by Bulletin senior writer Chad E. Hudnall and read Q&A article "Meeting the Challenges of Providing Equitable Healthcare" with ACR Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager Carla Brathwaite on what the ACR is doing to promote this cause.

Ensuring health equity for patients begins with creating an inclusive environment in our own workplaces. In a paper my colleagues and I published earlier this year in the JACR, we discussed this core issue: 

“Healthcare workforce diversity is vital in combating health disparities. Despite much recent attention to downstream strategies to improve diversity in radiology, such as increased recruitment efforts and holistic application review, workforce diversity has not tangibly improved in recent decades. Yet, little discussion has been devoted to defining the obstacles that might delay, complicate or altogether prevent persons from groups that have been traditionally marginalized and minoritized from a career in radiology. Refocusing attention to upstream barriers to medical education is vital to develop sustainable workforce diversity efforts in radiology.”

There are many ways for radiologists to promote equity for patients in their daily work. To facilitate more open discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion in healthcare, here are some proactive steps you and your colleagues can take: 

1. Educate yourself. Radiologists should actively seek to learn about the challenges and disparities affecting access to healthcare. This includes understanding the impact of socioeconomic factors, cultural differences and unconscious biases that may influence patient care.

2. Promote a culture of openness. Radiology departments should foster a culture of inclusivity where all team members feel comfortable expressing themselves. This may involve holding regular meetings or forums to discuss diversity-related topics.

3. Participate in training programs. You and your team members can attend workshops, seminars and training programs focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. These programs can enhance your understanding and equip you with the tools to address issues related to diversity in healthcare.

4. Collaborate with diverse stakeholders. You can engage with patients, healthcare providers and organizations that represent diverse communities to gain insights into their specific needs and experiences. Such collaboration can lead to better-informed decisions and a more patient-centered approach.

5. Incorporate diversity in research and education. Radiologists can encourage research that explores healthcare disparities among different populations and incorporates diverse case studies in radiology education. This will help raise awareness among future radiologists and improve their ability to provide equitable care.

6. Advocate for inclusive policies. Radiologists can actively advocate for policies that promote diversity and inclusion in healthcare institutions. This includes supporting initiatives that aim to increase representation of marginalized groups in medical fields.

7. Address unconscious biases. You can recognize and address unconscious biases that may influence medical decisions. This requires ongoing self-reflection and engaging in open discussions about bias with colleagues.

8. Promote cultural competence. You can develop cultural competence by understanding and respecting patients' diverse cultural backgrounds. This involves recognizing how cultural norms may impact communication and healthcare preferences.

9. Promote diversity in the workforce. Radiologists can encourage the recruitment and retention of diverse talent within radiology departments and healthcare institutions. A diverse workforce can contribute different perspectives and ideas, leading to improved patient care.

10. Be an ally and advocate. You and your colleagues can use your positions to advocate for equity and inclusion within the healthcare system. Being an ally involves actively supporting marginalized groups and standing up against discrimination.

By actively engaging in these strategies, you will contribute to a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system and help to create a world where patients receive the best possible care regardless of their background. It’s up to all of us to do our part. 

For more news, see a full list of the latest ACR Bulletin articles.

Author Peter F. Abraham, MD,  ACR representative, Radiology Health Equity Coalition, and resident physician, University of California San Diego