Just how diverse is academic radiology?

By Kate Madden Yee, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

August 30, 2021 -- How diverse is academic radiology, both from gender and racial/ethnic standpoints? Things have gotten better over the past 30 years, but there's much room for improvement, according to a research letter published August 30 in JAMA Network Open.

Yes, the number of women in academic medicine have increased since 1990, as have the numbers of underrepresented groups -- although the latter trend has been slower, wrote a team led by Dr. Alexander Yoo of the University of Rochester in New York. But pipelines to academic medicine for women and underrepresented groups remain undeveloped and untapped.

"Increasing faculty diversity can be partially attributed to comparably modest improvements in diversity among medical students and residents," the group noted. "However, URM [underrepresented groups in medicine] faculty are underrepresented compared with the resident pipelines for most specialties."

Yoo and colleagues assessed the current distribution of women and underrepresented groups (i.e., Alaskan Native, American Indian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islanders) across a variety of medical specialties using data gathered from 16 academic medicine departments in the Association of American Medical Colleges Faculty Roster between 1990 to 2019.

Overall, the researchers found increases in the representation of women and underrepresented groups during the study timeframe. The percentage of women in academic medicine grew from 22.3% in 1990 to 43.4% in 2019, while the percentage of underrepresented individuals in academic medicine rose from 5.9% in 1990 to 9.9% in 2019.

For radiology specifically, the percentage of female faculty increased by almost 11 percentage points, but underrepresented groups by only two points.

Women and underrepresented groups in academic medicine over three decades
Group 1990 2019 Percentage point change
Academic medicine overall
Women 22.3% 43.4% +21.1
Underrepresented groups 5.9% 9.9% +4
Women 18.7% 29.6% +10.9
Underrepresented groups 5.2% 6.8% +1.6

The investigators also found the following regarding radiology diversity representation across 16 medical specialties in 2019:

  • Radiology was the second highest specialty in terms of Black faculty representation.
  • It was third highest in female faculty representation.
  • It was fifth highest in Hispanic faculty representation.
  • It was 12th highest in American Indian or Alaska Native faculty representation.

Although it's heartening that more women are serving in academic radiology departments, the fact that racial and ethnic diversity continues to lag is of concern, the authors noted. Medicine must continue to take action to bridge this gap.

"Further investigation is needed to understand factors that may dissuade or obstruct women and URM [underrepresented groups in medicine] trainees from pursuing academic careers," they concluded.

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