Early on in her career Jenny T. Bencardino, MD, chief of musculoskeletal radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, was already involved in her community. But when a pressing issue came to the fore, she knew it was time to step up her work. Bencardino spoke with Ragni Jindal, MD, a radiology resident at NYU Winthrop Hospital, about how being a volunteer outside of work influenced her professional life and helped her handle burnout.
How did you decide where to focus your advocacy work?
My awakening as a diversity advocate was roused by the recent revival of the women’s rights movement across the U.S. For me, it meant getting actively involved with the passing of the Raise the Age legislation in N.Y., which raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18. I felt a personal connection to the issue because of work I was already doing with a sports instruction program for the kids at Westbury Juvenile Detention Center. At the time, two of my tennis players at the juvenile detention center were about to cross the age threshold to be transferred into adult prison. I knew these boys and girls personally, and I was driven to do all that I could to offer them the future they deserve.
What challenges did you come across?
I had never undertaken such a project before, so that was a challenge in itself. The best thing I did was realize that I couldn’t do it alone. I reached out to friends, PR experts, senators — anyone who could help tell this story to the legislature. Together we connected with the media, set up press conferences, organized public demonstrations, and met with on-the-fence senators. That’s when I really started gathering momentum and support for the legislation.
How has your work in advocacy affected your professional life?
When I first got involved, I was feeling drained and underappreciated at work. My involvement in this community project was a tremendous help in my personal struggle against burnout. For me, service is one way of making you aware of your worth. As radiologists, we can sometimes pin our identity and value on our profession. While I certainly am proud to be a physician, I realized that my sense of worth could not come only from my work. Reaching out to causes I believe in establishes another avenue of fulfillment and support.
How do you combat burnout as an individual and in your practice?
Radiologists report some of the highest rates of burnout and dissatisfaction across all medical specialties. Wellness programs are one resource (see sidebar). However, the healing effects of community service and advocacy work often go unnoticed. During my tenure at NYU previous to my Penn position, a community service committee was formed dedicated to collecting donations of food, toys, and clothing for the underprivileged. As more emphasis was placed on service at the institution level, faculty engagement in community service skyrocketed. Most agree that institutions need to support their medical staff in staving off burnout — I believe part of this is encouragement for advocacy work outside the reading room. Faculty members can set an example of being engaged in community work. Community service has helped many of us realize that bringing good to other people’s lives breeds good in our own lives. In practice, advocacy work has helped address burnout and increased job satisfaction and fulfillment, as individual radiologists and as a team.
This article is the first of a three-part Bulletin series. Readers will accompany Ragni Jindal, MD, as she highlights inspirational stories from radiologists around the country.