Point-Counterpoint: ACR revisits the benefits of diversity

A pair of editorials published online in the Journal of the American College of Radiology presented a point-counterpoint discussion on the topic of diversity in radiology practices, with one radiologist questioning the prescriptions from the ACR Committee for General Diversity.

In response to a series written last year by the ACR committee, David Hayes, MD, of Windsong Radiology Group in Amherst, N.Y., acknowledged the importance of a “natural, genuine diversity” in radiology practices, with practical value in the form of bringing new ideas and constructive dissent to the table.

However, after reading the columns from the ACR Committee for General Diversity, Hayes felt the committee didn’t show that its suggested remedies for diversity would actually improve the day-to-day operation of a struggling imaging practice.

“Human resources issues, 24/7 service demands, professional competencies, and governance are the typical challenges for a medical imaging group, and the [ACR Committee for General Diversity] failed to demonstrate how a diversity initiative would improve those chronic problems,” wrote Hayes. “A diversity project devoid of an obviously practical benefit is a heavy lift that many radiologists will find unnecessary, unworkable, and ultimately undesirable.”

Moreover, Hayes felt the suggestions from the ACR committee represented “policies of special treatment, preferences, and reparations,” which could backfire. Diversity initiatives could complicate hiring for the group, and individuals who felt as if they were hired for their minority status may struggle with self-doubt and feel they were chosen only based on demographics. Hayes suggested following in the footsteps of Peter Drucker, the so-call “dean of business management” who has influenced leaders from GE, IBM and numerous other organizations. Drucker’s method is based on impersonal, objective hiring focused on the job at hand, not personalities.

“In due course, after several hiring cycles, the diversity of the workforce will exactly reflect the natural and genuine diversity of the available labor pool. There can be no higher standard for group diversity,” wrote Hayes.

In the counterpoint, members of the ACR Committee for General Diversity, chaired by Johnson B. Lightfoote, MD, of Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in California, thanked Hayes for his interest, but corrected the misconception that they were calling for preferential treatment in hiring.

“We propose to actively encourage gifted and qualified women and minorities underrepresented in medicine to enter radiology and radiation oncology. It should be made clear that nowhere do we suggest any lowering of standards,” the committee wrote. “These talented physicians enter other specialties at much higher rates; we believe the radiologic professions should benefit from this diverse pool of talented doctors as much as any other medical specialty.”

In their previous articles, the ACR committee has shown that of the top 20 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education training programs, radiology ranks 18th among enrollees classified as underrepresented minorities. Lightfoote and colleagues also noted research has shown that a woman’s curriculum vitae is less highly regarded than a man’s even if the experiences and competencies are identical. Similar findings have been shown with regard to ethnic minorities, which is why many journals have moved to blinded submissions to try and mitigate any unconscious bias.

Lightfoote and colleagues also stressed that a commitment to diversity goes beyond hiring and includes valuing the diversity already present in a practice. It also means exploring subtle phrases that might be deemed offensive, such as referring to someone’s gender identity as “nontraditional.”

The committee cited several practical benefits of a diverse group, including the ability to attract more patients if the practice is reflective of its service population and the ability to be flexible with workload scheduling if a practice is made of individuals from diverse life stages.

The counterpoint editorial pointed to a list the committee compiled of practical ways groups can achieve best practices in this area. “Are diversity and inclusion ‘a heavy lift’? They don’t have to be,” wrote the committee.