6 findings on driving women's interest in diagnostic radiology

The percentage of women interested or working in diagnostic radiology (DR) remains nearly stagnant. The most recent statistic of women participating in DR was 26.9 percent in 2013, compared to 25.5 percent in 1990.

Why does lack of female interest persist?

In a new study, published Sept. 12 in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology, researchers with the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMass) in Worcester examined whether interventions to increase female interest are effective.

“To date, no study has been conducted to determine the impact of these suggested interventions once implemented,” wrote the authors, led by medical school student Elizabeth D. Yuan. “Interventions implemented at UMass aimed at increasing medical student exposure to radiology coincidentally align with those interventions that have also been suggested to increase recruitment of female medical students to radiology, thus our data provides valuable information regarding female medical student response to these interventions.”

Educational interventions to obtain additional interest in radiology practice amongst female medical students at UMass took place between 2012 and 2016.

  • UMass Medical School began offering flexible clinical experiences (FCEs) during the third year of medical school. FCEs are weeklong electives that complemented the core clinical curriculum while allowing for career exploration outside of the standard core clinical rotations. Pediatric, interventional radiology and breast imaging FCEs were all offered between 2012 and 2015.
  • A faculty radiologist became co-director of the anatomy course and added 15 to 20 imaging-driven lectures to the preclinical curriculum. Cadavers were imaged by CT to provide radiology-pathology correlations for anatomy dissections and 10 to 12 radiology residents were present in the anatomy lab for several sessions to review CT imaging with gross cadaver findings with students.
  • A ‘Women in Radiology’ panel was hosted to promote visibility of female radiologists during the fall semester of 2016. Three female attending radiologists and two female residents served as panelists and the bulk of the discussion revolved around topics they were interested in learning more about, including amount of patient contact within radiology and work-life balance.

After the educational intervention programs were implemented, preliminary findings suggest more female students were matching to radiology. However, more male students were matching compared to female students.

  • Students rated their perception of patient contact within radiology 28 percent higher after attending the panel.
  • Female students’ perceptions of work-life balance improved by 14 percent after the panel.
  • Students were 14 percent more likely to consider a career in radiology after attending the panel.
  • A majority (71 percent) of female medical students stated they wanted to take a clinical elective in radiology, and 29 percent stated they would consider it.
  • Students were more likely to enroll in radiology electives provided they were exposed to educational intervention in their first preclinical year but women were less likely to participate in a clinical radiology elective.
  • Required visibility and active publicity of female radiologists are likely to have the biggest impact in increasing female medical student interest.

“The preliminary findings suggest that early exposure during preclinical education increases overall medical student interest in radiology, not specifically female interest,” Yuan et al., wrote. “This increase in interest occurred preferentially in males despite the fact that the “patient-centered” electives were intended to appeal to female medical students—demonstrating that simply offering the electives is not enough, as suggested in prior studies.”

The authors noted further studies are needed to continue to quantify the effects of female radiologist involvement and evaluate the effect on future match rates of female medical students.