Tucked inside a construction site of the soon-to-be finished radiology suite, a group of women sit discussing their hopes for the future of their department. Their passion for changing the face of radiology and improving female and minority representation quickly fills the suite, and it appears that the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences is working toward more than just a physical transformation.
As the month of September marks the American Medical Association’s Women in Medicine month, Vasantha Aaron, MD, and Lauren Ladd, MDare helping lead the next generation of women radiologists at IU School of Medicine.
What is Women in Radiology and why is it important? The Women in Radiology group was founded in 2013 to support and promote the personal and professional development of female radiologists. Women trainees and faculty meet to encourage each other, share their experiences and offer advice.
Over time the goals of the group have evolved, focusing on long-term goals, such as increasing the representation of women in the field of radiology, specifically at IU School of Medicine.
“As the medical field has become increasingly diverse, radiology has failed to keep pace,” wrote Aaron and Ladd in A Mentorship and Networking Group for Women in Radiology. With less than 30 percent of women making up the department’s residency and less than 25 percent of women faculty, it becomes clear why this group is vital to the department’s growth. With fewer women in radiology, there are fewer role models for female medical students, which contributes to fewer female students pursuing a career in the field.
The department sponsored the organization in part to help create a platform for current female radiologists so that others can envision themselves being part of this field. The group’s events increase awareness of issues like maternity leave and representing more women in leadership.
“The longer I’ve been in this department, the more I realize that not only can women do this job, but they can thrive in this field,” said Aaron.
Is this just for women? “Not at all. We want to ensure we have men in the room to discuss the importance of workplace diversity and its impact on our work. We want everyone involved in these discussions,” said Ladd. For Ladd and Aaron it’s about informing and encouraging people from all backgrounds to ask the difficult, but important, questions.
“Everything is better when we all have a seat at the table,” reiterated Aaron. “We want everyone involved in our annual lectures, and we’re excited to brainstorm how to improve on building these discussions for the future of this group and our department.
Why was radiology such a good fit for you, and how does this group benefit your career? Residents Alisha Capps, MD and Rachel Rincker, MDare both grateful they landed in this field.
“It’s a multifaceted field,” said Rincker. “And the Women in Radiology group is great for networking and finding a job for the future.”
“I agree,” added Capps. “Plus you get to see wonderful role models in the faculty around you. You think, If they’re doing it, I can do it. Without having representation, it can be challenging for residents to see the opportunities they can have in their careers. It can often feel scary to be a pioneer, leading a trail for future women radiologists. When you don’t see yourself reflected in a group or department, it doesn’t feel welcoming or it becomes daunting to think how you’ll fit. The Women in Radiology group changes that for me.”
How do you see this evolving? Getting more women into the radiology field is a goal on our horizon, and the group has really shown countless possibilities the department has for the future.
“It has really motivated me,” said Aaron. “There are things that I see that I want to be better, that I now see can be better. I feel like we can actually do this. We can make it better for the women in the field!”
But the group is not just women. Aaron strongly believes that if we make it better for the underrepresented minorities in medicine, we make it better for everyone in this profession. Ladd gave a presentation at the American Roentgen Ray Society in the spring, talking about diversity and women in radiology. Already she has received requests from other institutions for her expertise on starting similar groups elsewhere so that everyone in the radiology field can better understand the challenges women face. It’s clear IU School of Medicine’s Women in Radiology group is becoming a model for the country.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Having joined IU School of Medicine in 2016, Sonder uses a poetry and theatre background to help bridge the academic world with the creative. A graduate of University of Evansville, he works with faculty and academic staff to formulate unique, marketing ideas that engage the public with innovative research at IU School of Medicine. From writing stories on groundbreaking equipment to orchestrating digital marketing strategies, Sonder collaborates with experts across the school to help departments thrive in their marketing and communication ambitions.