Managing to Succeed: Taking the Initiative
By Dave Yeager
Vol. 18 No. 10 P. 10
A grassroots initiative is aiming to increase the number of women in imaging informatics and radiology leadership positions. Called RAD Women—or RADxx—the initiative was cofounded by Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, an assistant professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and vice chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, and Mini Peiris, chief marketing officer at Ambra Health. The idea grew from a noticeable lack of diversity in the industry.
"Dr. McGinty and I had been at several industry events together, and we noticed that we were the only two women in the room at most of them, in a group of 20 to 30 people," Peiris says. "That seemed underrepresentative to both of us."
Peiris and McGinty began speaking with other women in the radiology community, and they soon realized that there is a need to bring more young women into imaging informatics and radiology leadership. Radiologists Amy L. Kotsenas, MD, an associate professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; Tessa S. Cook, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of radiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and a member of Radiology Today's editorial advisory board; and Bernadette Keefe, MD, a consultant specializing in social media in health care and medicine, soon joined the group. After organizing for about a year, RADxx was officially launched at RSNA 2016. It has since grown from a handful of prominent women in the imaging informatics community to more than 100 members, both female and male.
"We've had really strong support from both genders," Peiris says. "This is not just an issue that women care about; it's about diversity in a broader sense, in radiology as a profession and then also, specifically, when we look at informatics in radiology. We launched RADxx as a way to bring people together to network and build connections. And our overall goal is to raise awareness and try to inspire more women to enter the field of informatics."
The Importance of Informatics
Prior to RADxx, Cook says there were maybe five or six women in informatics who were recognized as experts in the field. The initial goal was to create a virtual community that would serve as a resource to aspiring informaticists, particularly if their institution didn't have an informatics expert. Along with the realization that women are underrepresented, many in the field recognize that informatics is becoming an increasingly important discipline.
"With all of the attention that machine learning is getting, people leading residency programs in radiology are starting to realize that they should be teaching informatics to residents. And we're not, currently," Cook says. "There was a parallel track of, 'Who's involved in informatics?' and we started to count up the women of informatics, and I'm not sure we made it past one hand—certainly not two hands. So we started to recognize that this was an area where perhaps there wasn't a lot of mentorship and, particularly, not a lot of mentorship for the women of radiology."
Cook says being a programmer is not a prerequisite to becoming an informaticist. The value of having a radiologist with an informatics background, she says, is that the radiologist is able to problem solve and act as a bridge between radiology and IT. She likens it to being a physician-scientist who understands the clinical aspects of medicine but is able to discuss research and basic science, as well.
"The real value that we bring is as the domain experts, not only in the clinical arena but also in the informatics space," Cook says. "And it could be talking to your PACS admin, it could be talking to a vendor, it could be talking to a physician in another department with a technical issue. It really is a problem solving/communications sort of a skill rather than a deep dive technical understanding. Not to say that there aren't those of us that have that, as well, but it's not a prohibitive prerequisite, by any means, to being an imaging informaticist."
Mentor or Sponsor?
Since RSNA 2016, RADxx has launched an informatics resource site (http://radxx.ambrahealth.com), hosted a Cocktails for Change reception at SIIM 2017, and run two tweet chats. The last tweet chat, in May, had more than 70 participants and generated more than 2.3 million impressions. The next one will be on Thursday, October 5 from 4 PM to 5 PM Eastern time. The topic is "Your Career Path in Imaging Informatics." McGinty and Kotsenas will moderate it. To participate, search for the hashtag #RADxx on Twitter and watch for the discussion questions.
There will also be a reception during RSNA 2017 on Tuesday, November 28 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM Central time at Siena Tavern in Chicago. Women leaders who have paved the way in the field of imaging informatics will be honored at the reception. Those interested in attending can RSVP on the RADxx website at http://radxx.ambrahealth.com/events.
Mentorship is already happening informally, Peiris says, but RADxx expects to promote additional mentorship programs in the future. In addition to mentoring opportunities, RADxx also aims to promote sponsorship opportunities. Peiris says mentors and sponsors are both necessary, but their roles are complementary.
"Sponsors really act to be your advocate and your marketer when you're not in the room," she says. "And so, a lot of times, you do need those male leaders to be your sponsors because you may not know of the conversations that are happening that could impact your career path, such as whether you get nominated to take on new challenging projects that will help you grow your capabilities or open up opportunities for advancement, etc."
Although her early mentors were in technology rather than radiology, Peiris names former bosses Karen Crawford and Laura Carson as mentors who taught her how to manage a team and gave her opportunities to apply her skills. In later years, she says there were many male leaders who stepped up and acted as sponsors on her behalf. Likewise, Cook credits the people she worked with early on for helping her to build her career.
"When I started [at Penn] as a radiology resident, we had four very highly active imaging informatics faculty in my department: Curt Langlotz, Steve Horii, Bill Boonn, and Woojin Kim," Cook says. "And they were all at Penn for my entire residency and my fellowship, so I could not have timed it better. A big reason that I now have the career that I have is because of their mentorship in imaging informatics. So, I now have a faculty role, and I'm paying it forward."
— Dave Yeager is the editor of Radiology Today.