Women are underrepresented in nuclear medicine, especially in leadership positions

While the number of female medical students has risen, women specialists remain underrepresented in nuclear medicine in the U.S. and Canada— specifically in academic and leadership positions, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Researchers created a database of 237 faculty members (179 male and 58 female specialists) in nuclear medicine taken from the Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database (FREIDA) and Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). Those consisted of 170 U.S. and 16 Canadian programs. To determine academic research productivity, the team looked at the number of publications, citations, years of active research and h-index (productivity and citation impact of publications).

Results showed 59 faculty members had leadership roles; of that total, eight were women. Additionally, nearly 13 percent of female faculty members occupied “first-in-command” roles, such as chair-person, director or dean and had a median h-index of 6.5. That is compared to the 87 percent of male first-in-command faculty members with a median h-index of 10. Women comprised 12.5 percent of second-in-command leaders, compared to 87.5 percent of men.

First author, Saba Moghimi, of the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues noted a “significant” difference in gender distribution across the academic ranks, and noted as the rank increased the percentage of female faculty decreased.

“The difference observed in the gender distribution with respect to ranks cannot be explained by academic performance because male and female faculty members had comparable performance markers,” the authors wrote.

The overall disparity of women in nuclear medicine is similar to numbers seen in other radiology subspecialties, such as neuroradiology and musculoskeletal radiology, the authors noted.

One potential reason for this could be the pay gap between men and women, which, Moghimi et al. noted can be seen particularly in the $12,194 higher mean salary U.S. male physicians receive compared to their female counterparts.

How can radiology address these disparities? For one, emphasizing the full scope of radiology and its subspecialties, including the limited, but meaningful opportunities for patient interaction, is important to recruiting female talent, Moghimi and colleagues argued. Comparing and contrasting the culture and scope of subspecialties may also help uncover deeper problems associated with these gender disparities. In the end, the authors maintained action must be taken to address the issue.

“The current study highlights the gender discrepancy among nuclear medicine specialists,” the authors concluded. “This discrepancy calls for new strategies to promote diversity in leadership and academia in nuclear medicine.”