The importance of mentoring medical students and connecting young talent to radiology continues to be top of mind for the ACR. The College’s goal is to introduce medical students to the field early — particularly those from backgrounds underrepresented in the specialty, and women, who might not otherwise be informed about or consider radiology or radiation oncology.
Knowing that medical students represent the future of our specialty, the College is prioritizing the education of students about what radiology has to offer and how radiologists contribute to our communities. The ACR Commission for Women and Diversity founded the Pipeline Initiative for Enrichment of Radiology (PIER) mentoring program in 2016 to increase minority and women medical student exposure to and preparation for radiology postgraduate training. In each of the last three years, five PIER candidate scholars were selected to work side-by-side with experienced radiologists in both academic and private practice environments. As part of the program, PIER scholars prepared and presented a research paper, enhancing both their understanding of the radiological sciences, as well as the competitiveness of their residency applications.
Ragni Jindal, MD, spoke with Johnson B. Lightfoote, MD, MBA, FACR, chair of the ACR Commission for Women and Diversity, to discuss how through the PIER program, the Commission is ensuring that the diversity of the radiology community reflects the increasing diversity of the U.S. population.
How did the Commission launch the PIER program?
The PIER program was launched with the help of Nth Dimensions™, an educational nonprofit striving to increase diversity in orthopedics and other underrepresented medical specialties. The PIER internship attracts young talent that not only diversifies our physician workforce, but also increases effective communication, improves patient compliance, develops professionals originating from and sensitive to needs of our diverse service population, and enhances quality of care. In March, two PIER scholars from our inaugural class matched into radiology, and we expect those numbers to grow each year as the College’s medical student outreach and engagement intensifies.
How has the program evolved since it began? Have there been obstacles along the way?
The PIER program primary goal is both well-defined and aspirational — we want to increase the enrollment of underrepresented minorities and women in radiology and radiation oncology residencies. Now, how do we get there? The initial program we adopted was created by Nth Dimensions. The initial Nth Dimensions program served as a great starting point, but ACR needed to adapt it become more radiology specific, and to increase our enrollment. In 2019, we decided to bring the program in-house, and now manage PIER as an internal ACR program, leveraging all the College’s extensive educational resources and experience. Over 30 applications were received for the summer 2020 radiology internship program — more than the previous three years combined. With such an impressive pool of candidates, Dr. McGinty and myself reached out to radiology department chairs nationwide. Several chairs enthusiastically volunteered to sponsor PIER scholars at their institutions, so that more deserving students could be afforded this valuable internship opportunity. With the support of these chairs, the PIER team was able to offer the program to a total of eleven talented young people for summer 2020.
What is your advice to medical students and radiology residents who are just starting out?
Passion, preparation, and active involvement are very important for medical students and residents who want to improve the diversity, inclusion, and representation of our specialty. And the diversity of our professional workforce matters increasingly as radiologists seek to effectively serve our more diverse population. We are blessed to practice a profession and science that profoundly benefits humanity. The writer William F. Gibson noted, “The future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed.” The PIER program is one way the ACR is working to make the amazing practice of radiology more inclusive. And that can only benefit the College, the specialty, and our patients.