Q&A: How more women are starting to be recruited into radiology

Compared to some other medical specialties, radiology continues to struggle with diversity. However, specialists, leaders, teachers and imaging societies throughout the United States are working hard to reverse that trend.

Radiology Business recently spoke with Amy Patel, MD, breast radiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Instructor of Radiology at Harvard University Medical School, to discuss some steps currently being implemented to recruit more women and minorities into radiology.

This is the second installment of our two-part interview with Amy Patel, MD. Part one can be read here.

Radiology Business: Why is it so important to get more women involved in radiology?

Amy Patel, MD: Of course, there are the obvious answers that I think most women radiologists would say such as, “it’s a great lifestyle” and “the salary is fantastic.” But I also think we are fortunate to be practicing in a time where women are being treated more equally and are being given opportunities that perhaps they were not privy to [years] ago, particularly when it comes to leadership, governance, education and research. We younger women radiologists—we really do understand how our older female colleagues fought and continue to fight so tirelessly so that the younger generation of women can achieve parity in all arenas in radiology, and we must continue to build on their efforts. And I think we are.

There are a lot of younger radiologists coming through the pipeline that are not taking this lightly, and we are really wanting to move the needle forward. It’s really exciting as we all get to be a part of this wonderful movement for change in our profession.

How are young radiologists encouraging recruitment efforts?

Well the good news is, I think most radiologists at all career levels are making recruitment of women into radiology a priority, so that’s fantastic! When it comes to younger radiologists, I think we are getting more involved particularly in giving medical school lectures, participating in medical student radiologist interest groups, trying to engage medical students more at the workstation and through social media, and even taking it to a national level through organized radiology. For example, the American College of Radiology (ACR) RFS Medical Student Task Force and ACR RFS Women and Diversity Group are devising ways to spur recruitment.

However, it must be noted that these groups are in their early stages. It is certainly a start toward achieving gender parity in our profession. There’s an active game plan that we are initiating. We’ve known and discussed for a long time that recruitment is key, but we really have seen no meaningful change. So, I think our generation is really taking it to the next level to see this through, to make sure that we do see a meaningful change. And now are seeing this when it comes to males and females entering medical school, so I am hopeful that we will eventually see this in radiology.

How do you mentor young people as part of recruitment?

Well, most of the medical students/radiology trainees I mentor arose from a very organic relationship. In most cases, it’s as simple as I worked with them when they are on our service in the breast section or through my work in various committees in organized radiology.

However, there have been times where someone will literally walk up to me or I will walk up to them at a meeting and we will strike up a conversation, and the relationship will start from there. Thus, I am very fortunate to mentor medical students/radiology trainees all over the country. It can be regarding really anything, such as how to prepare for residency interviews to job interviews to how to get involved in organized radiology, political advocacy or social media. But I can honestly say that anyone I mentor, I learn from as well, and I think that’s key when you’re in any mentor/mentee relationship.

What is your advice to young female medical students who are considering a career in radiology?

Observe early. If there is even a modicum of interest to pursue radiology, see what it’s all about from the get-go. And if you think this might be a field you’d enjoy, seek mentorship early. If you meet a radiologist who you connect with, do not hesitate to ask for guidance and mentoring. I think there is oftentimes a misconception that radiologists are introverted and cold human beings, but the majority do not fit this mold and would be more than happy to take you on as a mentee and guide you. In fact, that is why I pursued radiology. I had strong mentors in medical school who stuck by me 100 percent, demonstrating the greatness of the profession and the potential of it in the future and it really got me energized and excited.

Additionally, other ways you can seek mentorship is through organized radiology groups such the ACR. The ACR does a fantastic job plugging in medical students with the right people to help them in any and all capacity. The bottom line is, we need more women in our profession so that we can continue to move the needle forward, fortifying our profession with diverse skillsets, and in turn, taking the profession to new heights.