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Making moves to increase diversity in radiology — “It’s a must”

Stanford's Department of Radiology boosts its diversity effort, focusing on education, diversity in leadership and inclusion.

Radiology is a bit less diverse than other fields of medicine, Stanford pediatric radiologist Heike Daldrup-Link, MD, admits, but she's spearheading an effort to change that.

Daldrup-Link, with support of a diversity committee in Stanford's Department of Radiology, is pursuing a long-term approach to improve diversity and inclusion in radiology and science more broadly. Currently, the department is focusing on recruitment efforts, mentorship and educating colleagues at Stanford and in the broader scientific community. The first step is to increase the number of underrepresented individuals, including people of color, religious minorities, sexual and gender minorities, women and others, in the department by educating colleagues and hiring committees and providing them with resources to support diversity and inclusion, Daldrup-Link said.

I spoke with her recently to learn more.

How do you think diversity benefits the medical workforce?

Think of an orchestra playing a symphony. To play a symphony, you need different musicians, you cannot play a symphony with 20 trumpets or 20 violins, you need a broad range of different instruments, and I think this is very much true for medicine and science. We need people with different abilities, backgrounds and thought processes in order to be creative and generate solutions — and in the hospital, to serve a diverse patient population.

If a patient walks into the hospital, they want to see someone who looks like them. They may not feel comfortable if everyone who works in the hospital looks different than they do. And based on our backgrounds, we may be able to connect well with one patient, and another colleague might be able to connect well with another. So in order to connect between ourselves, to serve our patient population well, to solve problems and to be innovative, diversity is a must.

How did the diversity initiative in radiology get its start?

I kept bringing up the idea that underrepresented minorities and women could have more support in radiology. Fortunately, our chairman was very interested in the subject.

I think there is particular underrepresentation of women and minority members in the field of radiology, so there are a lot of opportunities to improve and become leaders in diversifying radiology.

How did you develop the initiative's mission?

If we look at medical schools, we currently have about a 50-50 split between male and female students, but as they go on to assistant, associate and full professorships, there's a diversion where less and less women and underrepresented minorities progress in their career, and this has been going on for decades.

It's thought that one root cause is a lack of diversity in leadership. Everyone looks out for someone who looks like them, so if a young medical student doesn’t see anyone like them represented in leadership, they may not think that they can make it through this pathway.

And if you really wanted to make a difference, you have to make sure that newly hired people are truly included in the departments — in the overall culture. And that means we have to educate; we have to make people aware of different cultural backgrounds, beliefs, motivations  and subjective experiences. Part of that is achieved through our monthly newsletter and our new website.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

We want to make sure that everyone in our department is appreciated and treated with respect. I think the message should not be 'women or men' but rather 'women and men.' We do not want to limit opportunities for our male colleagues, we want to make sure that the same opportunities are available to women and underrepresented minorities.

I think what’s really important to understand is that we are in this together, and no one loses by helping a colleague, male or female, to contribute and realize their full potential. We all deserve a community that makes us feel that we actually matter.

Photo by Wonder woman0731

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