26 January 2022
Ellen Stanton By Ellen Stanton

The Importance of Women in Medical Imaging.

There’s no denying the impact of innovative, intelligent women in the medical imaging space. However, the medical imaging market is one that recognises a noticeable gender imbalance across various avenues of the industry.

For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, adopted worldwide by medical institutions for computer-aided diagnosis pay little attention to the way databases are collected and how this can influence AI systems performance.

A recent PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) study highlighted the importance of gender balance in the datasets used to train these AI systems. Noticing a consistent decrease in performance for underrepresented genders, and raising the alarm for these system regulators, which should include explicit gender balance and diversity recommendations.

A few influential women in the industry have caught my eye in recent months, which led me down the path of discussing their methods and approaches in some more depth. After my colleagues, Cameron and Emil, recently attended RSNA where radiologist Elizabeth Hawk discussed the importance of new technologies to support flexible work arrangements and career advancement for female radiologists.

Changing the game.

I’m particularly interested in the work of networking and mentorship group, RADequal (formerly RADxx). Led by leading physicians and thought leaders such as co-founder, Dr Geraldine McGinty, RADequal was set up for women in radiology, informatics, and IT management of radiology systems.

Having kicked off 2022 with the announcement that its nominations for the 5th annual RADequal Awards are now open, the organisation launched these awards to help recognise the achievements of women in the medical imaging informatics space.

After its recent rebrand, announced in June 2021, RADequal has grown and adapted in an aim to better recognise the need for gender equality in the imaging industry. This year’s awards will honour four categories, to be awarded to outstanding individuals who have helped lead the way, as well as heroing emerging voices in medical imaging informatics.

These include:

  • RADequal Trailblazer: Recognises a pioneering leader in informatics who has been in the field for at least 10 years.
  • RADequal Ally: Recognises an exceptional ally who has supported and furthered the advancement of women and diversity in imaging informatics.
  • RADequal Champion: Recognises individuals who have helped to sponsor the career development of women in medical imaging informatics.
  • RADequal Rising Star: Recognises the next generation of women leaders in imaging informatics.

A new direction.

The organisation's mission to address the underrepresentation of women and increase diversity in imaging informatics was initially announced at the 2016 annual RSNA conference, and since then have been met with overwhelming excitement. The recognition for change was accepted open-armed, seeing many highbrow nominees in the first years of its launch.

RADequal is supported and sponsored by medical data and image management cloud software company, Ambra Health. This collaboration ensures a broad reach across relevant networks, helping both organisations to collaboratively achieve the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of women in imaging informatics.

I was lucky enough to speak with Dr Nina Kottler, practising radiologist and Vice President of Clinical Operations at Radiology Partners (RP). A close colleague of Dr McGinty, I was interested to hear how Dr Kottler became aware of RADequal, and what it means to her and the future of the industry.

[Geraldine] is someone who promotes women into leadership positions and is very engaged with gender diversity. I actually initially received [the Trailblazer] award… maybe a year after that she asked me to join their steering committee.

Nina mentions Geraldine fondly, telling of how inspiring their first meeting was back in 2018.

I was no one – and she said ‘I want to know about you, who you are and how you got started… you’re an imaging informaticist’ and I was like ‘what do you mean?’ and she was like ‘I know you’re doing economic stuff but really deep down and what you’re amazing at is imaging informatics and you should make sure you get a title, you should do more work in that area’ and since then, that’s exactly what I do.

It's comments like these that showcase just how truly invested and influential this community is in creating a force for change. Now home to over 250 members and welcoming anyone interested in increasing diversity within the various disciplines related to medical imaging. Despite the enormous progress the organisation has made in recent years, Dr Kottler says there’s still more to be done.

The other part I would say is something that we’re trying to change in RADequal, is how we can get more women mentors and advocates. There is a difference between mentors and advocates; an advocate is someone who can move you further in your career and get you into that next position, they may not know you… as well, but they’re able to move your career forward more than a mentor.

You tend to find... that women have way more mentors than they have advocates, and men have more advocates than mentors. A mentor… is more advisory and knows you [well enough to] say, ‘hey, here’s what worked for me, why don’t you try this’, but they’re not going to get you that next position… All those things combined have made it very hard for women to be in radiology overall, but also in radiology leadership.

Dr Kottler isn’t blind-sighted by the challenge though. She notes the recognition of various opportunities to introduce the RADequal mentality and integrate change wherever possible in the industry.

I help with a lot of the different organisations that are holding annual meetings… the people that fill these know the same people and these always tend to be men. So, you end up with what are called ‘manels’ which is as it sounds – a panel of just men… Part of it is not purposeful, it’s unconscious and it’s who they know, so making more awareness about great women speakers is an easier way to… get more women out there and then that can start snowballing.

So, I think the uptake has been really great… I try to almost reverse discriminate and have all-women panels, just to show people that this is something that is against the norm.

Raising awareness is the first step, but on its own, it’s not going to make a change, so beyond that it’s education.

It’s clear the impact RADequal is having on the industry, and with such honest and innovative leaders at the helm, it’s hard to see its growth and influence slowing down any time soon. Not just women, but people across the industry and beyond should not only be joining this network but proudly shout about its mission to raise support and awareness.

I am proud to say that as a woman recruiting senior roles in the medical imaging field, I recognise the need for this network, and truly believe it can inspire a budding new generation of industry-leading females in this space. The inspiring work of Dr McGinty and her cohort is one I am eager to keep my eyes on, and I certainly look forward to seeing this year’s award nominees.

I would love to hear your thoughts on diversity in medical imaging, or any other trends in the space. Feel free to drop me a message at ellen.stanton@medical-cm.com.

For more insight from the CM Medical Imaging team, click here.

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Ellen Stanton

Ellen specialises in Medical Imaging across North America. Working with both start-ups and multi-national companies, she hires for commercial, technical and clinical roles at a variety of seniorities. Her specialised understanding of the market allows Ellen to find a match for both client and candidate.

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