How updated recruitment efforts can improve diversity in radiology

Radiology is behind other medical specialties in terms of diversity. What can be done during the recruitment process to reverse that trend?

A new analysis published in Academic Radiology explored this very question. Overall, the authors noted, radiology is facing an uphill battle when it comes to recruitment. Medical students often assume radiologists never perform procedures, for instance, and fears of AI can play a role in making potentially interested individuals choose another specialty altogether.

“Radiologists need to be seen and heard as essential educators and professional leaders, enthusiastically pursuing a relevant and fulfilling career path, and delighted to take the next generation along for the ride,” wrote Kara Gaetke-Udager, MD, department of radiology at the University of Michigan–Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, and colleagues. “From the beginning, radiologists should be part of the medical school curriculum, visible at student functions and participating on advisory boards.”

A key part being visible, of course, is being available to students from a variety of backgrounds. Reaching out to underrepresented minorities (URMs) is especially important, and Gaetke-Udager et al. explained some ways radiology residency programs can achieve that goal, including creating “interactive learning material” about the specialty for students and creating “scholarship and grant opportunities” for students who may not be able to attend regional and national radiology conferences. Attending meetings held by the Student National Medical Association, Latino Medical Student Association, Association of American Indian Physicians and Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association was also recommended.

“Another approach should be to highlight the complex, myriad ways in which radiologists contribute to patient care via diagnosis and therapy,” the authors wrote. “Studies showed that URM medical students considered patient contact to be among the highest criteria when deciding upon a career in medicine, and Black and Hispanic students also prioritized the exercise of social responsibility, educating patients about health, and the opportunity to make a difference more than White and Asian students.”

Gaetke-Udager and colleague also discussed why residency programs should focus on the development of women and URM radiology leaders. While women make up 22% of practicing radiologists in the United States and 28% of academic radiologists, they make up just 13% of leaders within the specialty. For URMs, those numbers are significantly lower. This creates a “circular” problem, the authors explained, because fewer women and URMs in leadership positions means there are fewer opportunities for women and URM medical students to see themselves in a radiology leader and consider the specialty a legitimate option.

“The visibility of women and URMs in leadership positions is especially important,” the authors wrote. “There have been multiple studies describing the positive effect of role models on career choices in radiology, and women entering radiology training are more likely than men to list mentoring as an important factor. This means not just having women and minorities in leadership positions, but also getting them actively involved with medical students, trainees and junior faculty.”

Overall, the team concluded, it will take effort from “all members of the radiology community” to truly make an impact on diversity in radiology. But if it becomes a priority across the board, “it can be accomplished with engagement and perseverance.”