A push for the end of microaggressions in radiology

Microaggressions have no place in radiology, according to a new commentary published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“A microaggression is a comment or an action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group,” wrote lead author Carolynn M. DeBenedectis, MD, University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and colleagues. “Microaggressions can be seen in all aspects of society in everyday life.”

Examples provided by the authors include telling a female radiologist she is “too pretty” to sit in a reading room all day or telling a minority radiology resident they are doing really well “considering their background.” While it is possible the person making such a comment does not mean to be offensive or insulting, their intent does not excuse such behavior. DeBenedectis et al. noted that being subjected to microaggressions can have a negative impact on a person’s confidence and lead to a variety of mental health issues.

“Think of microaggressions like mosquito bites,” the authors wrote. “A single or occasional mosquito bite is annoying for a second but can be ignored, but when the mosquito bites are unrelenting and in large numbers, they can be damaging.”

In radiology literature, they added, such microaggressions can cause even more damage because they exist in perpetuity. Each time someone reads those words—again, even if the original author did not necessarily mean any harm—there is a chance that person will be impacted in a negative way.

The authors noted that they are all members of the Association of Program Directors in Radiology, the American College of Radiology’s Diversity Committee or both. They want radiology to be diverse and inclusive, and removing microaggressions from the specialty altogether is one key way to achieve that goal.

“We believe that diversity in the workplace creates innovation,” DeBenedectis and colleagues wrote. “To attract this diverse group of individuals, people from different backgrounds should feel welcome in our specialty without being subjected to microaggressions. We need to be allies and demonstrate this in our everyday interactions. Those of us who publish in the radiology literature, serve on editorial boards, and serve as reviewers should be allies and edit papers to exclude microaggressions.”