Top residents see bright future for radiology job market, but women remain underrepresented

Chief residents of radiology programs across North America see a rosy future for the imaging job market, a notable departure from the negative perceptions expressed only years ago, according to the results of a long-running survey.

In fact, among the 142 resident responses in the Association of Academic Chief Residents in Radiology annual survey, 67% had no concerns about the specialty’s job market.

By comparison, the 2014 iteration of the online query found only 4% with zero concerns, David H. Ballard, MD, with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues wrote June 14 in Academic Radiology.

“Chief resident perception of the job market was quite favorable, which marked a dramatic shift since 2013,” the group added, pointing out that two years after that concern peaked, the number of unfilled diagnostic rad residency spots also plateaued.

Ballard et al. speculated that the overwhelmingly negative outlook in 2013 may have prompted chiefs to “dissuade” medical students from applying for the spring 2015 radiology match. That hypothesis is backed by a drop in residency post viewings during the same time period, the group noted.

Much work to be done

It’s not all sunshine and flowers for the profession, however. The group found that women remain vastly underrepresented in radiology.

The average size of the programs in this year’s survey is 28 residents, with a mean of 7.3 women per residency, or 26%. And only three of the 99 programs are made up of at least 50% women.

This unbalance is a “well-known issue,” the authors acknowledged, and one that has not changed much since 1990-1991 when women accounted for 25% of all radiology residency positions. And from that time period up until this year’s survey, that proportion has never topped 30%.

What’s more, Ballard et al. report that survey data spanning 2003 to 2011 suggest 48.3% of all medical school graduates are women.

Physicians from Brigham and Women’s Hospital say their Women in Radiology organization has helped improve that disparity at their own institution, boosting the annual percentage of women in each of its rad residency classes to more than 40%.

Radiology chiefs should also try formal planning sessions and email exchanges with female radiology faculty, residents and med students, the Brigham authors say. Annual Women in Radiology events may also help even out the playing field.

This same type of disparity also extends to historically underrepresented minorities, the researchers wrote. Asian and Middle Eastern individuals made up 18.8% and 7.8% of programs, respectively. African Americans accounted for only 3.5% and Hispanic or Latinos 2.4%.

“Future surveys and efforts should address potential strategies to increase women and minority representation in radiology,” wrote authors of the survey, which started in 1971. “Residents may have a meaningful role in recruiting medical students to radiology residencies, particularly women and minorities,” they added later.