March 8, 2022

Women in Radiology program boosts department diversity in five-year study

Vanderbilt research found that structuring a program to intentionally support women radiologists leads to improved workplace gender equity and career satisfaction for women.

Structuring a program to intentionally support women radiologists leads to improved workplace gender equity and career satisfaction for women as well as a positive departmental culture shift.

Nationally, the number of women in radiology lags compared to the proportion of women in medicine. In 2020, just over a quarter of residents entering radiology were women, with women accounting for only 23% of all practicing radiologists in 2018.

The Vanderbilt Women in Radiology (WiR) program was instituted in 2015 to cultivate knowledgeable, successful and confident women prepared to achieve career success and step into leadership positions. Today, approximately 54% of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Diagnostic Radiology residents are women — nearly double the national average. The department’s clinical faculty is 39% women compared to the national average of 25%, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“As a field nationally, Radiology has struggled to recruit, retain and advance women. The department’s success in understanding what leads to career advancement for women through an intentional program is a model that can be replicated in other areas of medicine. Vanderbilt WiR is the vision of Dr. Lucy Spalluto, who successfully centered gender equity in the radiology workplace to the national conversation,” said Courtney Tomblinson, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Radiology and new director of WiR.

“Alongside our department chair, the WiR leadership team and others, I look forward to supporting the career development and advancement of women in radiology.”

Vanderbilt WiR utilizes a multifaceted approach to supporting women in radiology that includes social and networking opportunities, didactic educational programming, an annual lecture series and recruitment emphasis, as well as in-person and online engagement.

Five years after the implementation of WiR, more program participants believe women faculty members have access to the same professional opportunities as their male counterparts than prior to program initiation. More women also now indicate that promotions are awarded in an unbiased fashion and that similar positions carry comparable salaries for women and men.

A detailed description of Vanderbilt WiR program components and outcomes are described by first author Tomblinson in Five Years Later: Impact of a Focused Women in Radiology Program.

“Vanderbilt Radiology recognizes the continued imperative to address the underrepresentation of women in radiology and in leadership positions,” said Lucy Spalluto, MD, MPH, former director of WiR, who will maintain her roles as vice chair of Health Equity and associate director for Diversity and Inclusion for the Department of Radiology. “We established Vanderbilt Women in Radiology in 2015 to begin to address the major unmet need of supporting the professional development of women in radiology. Dr. Tomblinson’s outstanding leadership will be critical in advancing this mission.”

The vision of the department is to expand the identity of radiologists and the influence of the field of radiology. By 2030, it’s expected that the faculty will be comprised of over 50% women, said Reed Omary, MD, MS, Carol D. and Henry P. Pendergrass Professor and chair of Radiology.