Radiology Has a Bright Future, But Not Everyone Is Included

June 18, 2020

Job market perceptions are bullish, but survey reveals the specialty still lags behind others with representation of women and underrepresented minorities.

It is a bright future for radiology, but work still remains to increase gender equality in the profession, according to chief radiology residents across the United States.

Recent years of pessimism over the specialty’s job market are finally giving way to growing confidence, according to results from a recent American Alliance of Academic Chief Residents in Radiology survey. But, that job market – and the current professional workforce and pipeline– still have too few women and underrepresented minorities.

Survey results, published June 14 in Academic Radiology and based on 142 resident responses from 99 residency programs, show that 67 percent of radiology residents have no concerns about the job market. This is a significant swing from the 58 percent who had a poor-to-very poor outlook in 2014.

“Chief resident perception of the job market was quite favorable, which marked a dramatic shift since 2013,” wrote the study team led by David H. Ballard, M.D., chief resident of the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine at St. Louis.

The team also highlighted the correlation between the years after the highest concern over the job market and diagnostic imaging residency spots – two years after job market concern peaked, the number of unfilled residency spots also reached a zenith.

The team hypothesized that this direct relationship could have been the result of chief residents sharing their own negative feelings about the specialty with medical students, citing a decline radiology residency posting view at that time.

“This suggests that when residents talk, medical students listen, and are perceptive, be it to the benefit or the detriment of the field,” the team wrote. “Residents may have a meaningful role in recruiting medical students to radiology residencies, particularly women and minorities.”

Too Few Women and Minorities

Even though the perception of the job market has rebounded, the profession still lags behind other specialties when it comes in incorporating women and underrepresented minorities in its ranks.

According to the survey results, radiology has seen virtually no change in the percentage of female residents between 2014 and 2019 – 25.7 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively. Each program has an average of 28 residents, meaning there is an average of 7.3 female residents in each. And, only three of the 99 diagnostic imaging residency programs are comprised of more than 50 percent women.

These numbers put radiology behind other specialties in terms of gender diversification – 2019 National Graduate Medical Education Census data revealed, on average, most other specialty residency programs have 46.2 percent women. This data shows this is a long-standing issue as only 27.8 percent of diagnostic imaging residents have been women from 2003 to 2011, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), but women have made up 48.3 percent of medical school graduates during that time period.

Authors from one hospital – Brigham and Women’s Hospital – shared their successes with their Women in Radiology program that grew the number of women in their residency program to more than 40 percent. They pointed to formal planning sessions, email communication with female radiology faculty, residents, and interested medical students, as well as integration the women radiology organization into medical school interview days as strategies to specifically target and recruit more women to the field.

In addition to a dearth of women, the survey also revealed that radiology needs to strengthen its inclusion of underrepresented minorities, the authors wrote. Based on AAMC data, diagnostic imaging residency programs. The study authors noted that residents of Asian and Middle Eastern descent make up 18.8 percent and 7.8 percent of programs, respectively, and African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos account for only 3.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

Consequently, the authors concluded, future surveys and efforts should concentrate on potential strategies being used and tested to recruit more women and underrepresented minority groups to the specialty.