How to improve the diversity of your radiology department's residency program

By developing a strategic diversity program, representatives from Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s department of radiology successfully improved the diversity of its residency applicant pool and residency training program. 

The success of the diversity program—detailed in research published by the Journal of the American College of Radiology—was spearheaded by departmental leadership and physicians who knew that increasing the representation of physicians who are underrepresented minorities in medicine (URMM) is important for meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse patient population.

In July 2013, staff from the department and the institution’s associate dean for diversity affairs created a Radiology Graduate Medical Education (GME) Diversity Recruitment Plan, which included the following:  

  • Website development, including creating a departmental diversity web page and revising the existing diagnostic radiology residency program website; 
  • Advertising; 
  • Early exposure opportunities, such as “shadowing” experiences for candidates with URMM faculty; 
  • Traveling to predominantly minority institutions for recruitment and national medical meetings; 
  • Mentoring opportunities for students with URMM faculty; 
  • Using "holistic" screening tools for residency application review; 
  • Establishing a diverse Residency Recruitment Committee;  
  • Creating a welcoming, inclusive environment for visiting URMM candidates; 
  • “Second Look Weekend” visits for talented URMM candidates.  

In 2016, the department's efforts evolved into the development of the Radiology Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to incorporate additional faculty and educational resources for diversity and inclusion, according to the authors.  

Overall, the percentage of underrepresented URMM radiology residency applicants increased from 7.5 percent (42 of 556) of total applicants in the 2012-2013 recruitment year to 12.6 percent (98 of 777) in the 2017-2018 recruitment year.  

Additionally, URMM radiology residency representation increased from zero percent (0 of 32) in the 2013 to 2014 academic year to 20 percent (6 of 30) in the 2018 to 2019 academic year.  

“A successful diversity program of this kind requires vision, leadership, and a plan—with strategies to create and sustain positive change, financial resources, sup- porting infrastructure, and strategic partnerships,” wrote Stephanie E. Spottswood, MD, and colleagues. The team also noted that having a department chair whose values are aligned with those of the program helped develop metrics for monitoring its success.  

The authors added that additional care should be taken to avoid the burden of extra responsibilities being placed on minority faculty during efforts to increase diversity and inclusion.   

In the future, the department plans to expand their definition of URMM to include other aspects of diversity, including socioeconomic disadvantage, ability status, the LGBTQ+ community and military veterans.  

“Our diversity program can serve as a helpful model for radiology departments without formal diversity programs,” the authors concluded. “We encourage departments with existing diversity programs to join us in sharing diversity strategies and reporting outcomes.”