Why diversity matters in radiology

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 - People Network

Despite the benefits of having a diverse workforce, radiology and radiation oncology have a disparity in diversity compared with other specialties, according to an article published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The article is the first half of a two-part series from the ACR Commission for Women and General Diversity, and in addition to surveying the state of diversity in radiology and radiation oncology, it offered a number of reasons why a diverse practice may offer improved care.

“Commitment to diversity does not mean eliminating differences among individuals or groups, or pretending that they do not exist; rather, a true commitment to diversity means respecting and even celebrating such differences,” wrote Johnson B. Lightfoote, MD, MBA, from Department of Radiology at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in Pomona, Calif., and colleagues.

While the composition of the U.S. population is changing—by 2050, the percentage of Asians and Hispanics will both triple and the black population will double, noted the authors—progress in diversifying medicine has been disappointing. “[T]here is a disconnect between vocal support and quantifiable results,” wrote Lightfoote and colleagues.

Of the top 20 largest Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) training programs, diagnostic radiology ranks ninth in total resident enrollment, yet ranks 18th among trainees classified as underrepresented minorities. Specifically, radiology ranks 18th for black, 19th for Hispanic and 16th for American Indian/Alaska native/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander trainees. Radiation oncology has not improved representation among residents since data was first reported annually, according to the authors.

Women are underrepresented among practicing radiologists and residents, though are represented to a greater extent than men in academic radiology. Diagnostic radiology ranked 17th for representation of women among the top 20 ACGME programs.

Representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in medicine as a whole is unknown, as is the proportional representation among specific specialties.

Lightfoote and colleagues stressed that race or ethnicity are clearly not the only factors that determine degree of “fit” between a patient and a physician, but shared race or ethnicity has been shown to enhance communication, patient satisfaction and compliance with recommendations.

Diverse experiences lead to diverse perspectives, which can help in the development of new ideas, and diversity that promotes cultural competence can create a positive experience for patients.

“[A] radiologist might add substantially to the diversity of a group practice because of prior experience, such as having served in another part of the world as a Peace Corps volunteer, having had another career in a field such as business or the arts, or having dealt with the health care system as a patient,” wrote the authors. “Just as diversity is important, so too is a variety of perspectives on the value of diversity.”