Eye of the Tigress: Promoting Diversity in Radiology

June 22, 2017

Diversity matters to Emory. Indeed, diversity helps define the Emory University Vision and is an essential component of the Emory Healthcare Care Transformation Model.

In support of this commitment, the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences Chair Carolyn Melzer, MD, has formed the Radiology Diversity and Inclusion Committee and charged it with identifying ways to improve diversity across dimensions including, but not limited to, culture, ethnic and racial identity, age, gender, disability, genetic information, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and veteran’s status.

One team from the 2016-17 Radiology Leadership Academy (RLA), decided to test an events-based strategy for promoting gender diversity in radiology as their Business of Radiology project.

Eye of the Tigress: Women and Diversity in Radiology,” was held on April 4 in the Dobbs University Center (DUC) Winship Ballroom. It featured several female faculty members sharing their personal experiences as radiologists.

“The idea was to use the stories and experiences of individuals in essential but often unassuming roles to shine a spotlight on diversity at work,” says Nadja Kadom, MD, associate professor and director of pediatric neuroradiology, an RLA team member.
As her teammate Puneet Sharma, PhD, assistant professor and MRI physicist, put it, “Through informed and fun conversations with featured employees, we hoped to promote further understanding and engagement across dimensions of diversity.”

Their team, which included Laura Benson, manager of clinical operations, and Michael Panas, supervisor of general diagnostic radiology at Emory University Hospital Midtown, targeted event invitations to female students in Emory School of Medicine to spur interest in radiology as a specialty. A goal was to dispel the common myths about radiology being boring, isolating, and a ‘boys club.’

Omari Johnson, MD, associate professor, director of emergency radiology, and chief of radiology at Emory University Hospital Midtown, served as host, drawing out each panelist with questions.

Mimi Newell, MD
Like many medical students, Mimi Newell, MD, who is director of Breast MRI and associate division director of breast imaging at Emory, had initial concerns about radiology as a specialty. “Sitting in a dark room looking at images. . . couldn’t possibly be very interesting,” she first thought. She quickly changed her mind when she experienced radiology as an important way to “get the information in a different manner” in order to solve a diagnostic puzzle.

Dr. Newell also talked about how interactive radiology can be. From students and residents to technologists and referring physicians, she has found herself constantly working with others. She especially noted the importance of communicating directly with patients as a breast imager: she talked about discussing imaging findings with patients as part of the diagnostic process and as part of their ongoing care for breast cancer.

In her interview, Dr. Newell emphasized the importance of being open to challenge. She began her career in private practice, which she described as comfortable. “But my father always said, ‘if the walk is easy, you’re probably going downhill.’ That made me think.” When the opportunity arose to join Emory, she took it, even though it felt intimidating.

Dr. Newell spoke candidly about the challenges women with professional careers face, particularly the tension of finding work/life balance. She submitted that “we can’t do it all,” and she shared the sacrifices she made, including working part-time so she could raise a family. Despite the sacrifices, hard work and dedication to the profession have resulted in a joyful career in radiology, which proved to be inspiring to the medical students in attendance.

Sarah Milla, MD
Dr. Johnson then talked with Sarah Milla, MD, associate professor and specialist in pediatric neuroimaging. Dr. Milla emphasized the importance of finding one’s own career path. Her first love, she confessed, was art, although she excelled at math and science. “In college, at MIT, I learned a lot about art, its history, and about architecture. I really loved it. I thought I would get an MFA.”

After a gap post-graduation year, her mother, whom Dr. Milla called the ultimate Tiger Mom, convinced her to apply to medical school and to “try it.”

“I was introduced to radiology on day two of medical school, when my advisor happened to be a radiologist. He immediately brought us into the reading room and showed us what he did. I said, ‘I can look at black and white photos all day and tell people what’s wrong with them?’ That was it for me. I was going to be a radiologist.”

Dr. Milla also talked about mentors, both formal and informal, as especially vital to helping women in radiology. “I think the greatest compliment is when someone considers you a mentor,” she said, recalling students who have come to her and told her how she inspired their own career choices.

She also talked about being honest about the sacrifices as well as the rewards of a career path. “I have a colleague who likes to say ‘You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once.’ I look at it more like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you’ll have more work in your life, and then other times, you’ll have to choose more family time.” Having such a realistic view of the challenges, she said, can make it easier for women to make their own choices about what works for them.

A Successful Evening of Networking

Following the panel, the student attendees connected with panelists and other radiology faculty and staff over food and drinks. The feedback was very positive and the audience especially appreciated the intimate setting and educational value. Participants described the event as “fun, enjoyable, informative, intimate, and educational.” One participating medical student stated she now was more likely to consider radiology as a specialty, especially given the connections she made with faculty that night.
For more information about RISE and to watch the video of the panel discussion, visit http://www.radiology.emory.edu/about/Diversity/rise.html