Author : Alain Nathan Sahin, Medical student at the University of Montreal

Being on the RFS’s Women in IR Committee and recognizing the importance of supporting women in IR, I wished to better understand IR demographics across time. I also wanted to understand how these findings could generalize across other nations.

My search results brought up an interesting news article (1), citing Dr. Meridith Englander who was the former chair of the Women in IR Committee. She wrote:

“As long as interventional radiology has been a specialty, there have been women interventional radiologists. Three of the founding fellows of the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology (SCVIR) were women. Helen C Redman; Ethel J Finck; and Renate L Soulen were among the first class of SCVIR Fellows. Of the 40 Society of Interventional Radiology presidents, four have been women. Arina Van Breda, was the first in 1992–93, followed by Anne C Roberts (1996–97); Janette D Durham (2004–05); and Katharine L Krol (2006–07). Despite their presence and prominence, women are a distinct minority in the interventional radiology world. Only 9% of interventional radiologists are women.” (1)

The SCVIR is the old name of the SIR. For reference, it took around ten years for IR to formally establish itself, from 1963 when Charles Dotter presented his initial thoughts on the future of catheters to around 1973 when SIR was founded (2). This happened at a time when medicine was a field with a heavy male presence. Even in 1986, only 15.2% of physicians in the US were women (3).

In addition, I could find a video (4) produced by our committee featuring Dr. Victoria Marx. Dr. Marx is the current SIR President. She highlights a common misconception that there is a glass ceiling in IR; in fact, she terms what the IR field is currently experiencing a “glass floor,” because of the current gender gap in recruiting medical students and residents to the field (4). She refers to how patient care, being one of the founding pillars of IR as a specialty, could help attract women to the field (4). Another article (5) I had come across also refers to patient care. As the field of IR is booming, the interventions we can offer patients diversify. The authors explain that recruiting more female members would increase options for patients as some could prefer to have female physicians (5).

This article (5) also addressed two important perceived impediments (6) that lead to low female recruitment (7), which are radiation exposure and work-life balance. They used two analogies that I found to be insightful; (1) they note how radiation exposure is higher amongst flight attendants and pilots, and (2) they mention how the field of obstetrics and gynecology also has demanding schedules. These comparisons made me realize how offering these different perspectives provide better understanding of the field. I also believe that it goes to show how mentorship (i.e., the ability to hear the opinion of experienced leaders) can have an impact on medical students and residents. In the same line of thought, I foresee that recent women mentorship initiatives (4-6) will be strong vectors of change.

Finally, I found IR demographic data from different regions: the United States, Canada, and Europe. Amongst US academic female radiologists, 7.3% practiced IR (8, 9). This ratio was only 1.1% in Canada (8). This surprised me as the Canadian medical school female-to-male gender ratio has been relatively high (10). The Association of American Medical Colleges shows how the majority of residents and fellows in obstetrics and gynecology are female, compared to about 9% for IR (11). In a joint European Society of Radiology (ESR) – Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe (CIRSE) survey from 2017, when asked the question, “What percentage of radiologists in your department who perform therapeutic interventional procedures are female?” about 28% of respondents answered, “None” (11). A presentation at the British Society of Interventional Radiology meeting in 2017 also highlighted the gender gap and put emphasis on mentorship (11). This gender gap is thus seen across borders.

Although this exploratory survey is not exhaustive, as an honorary male medical student of the Women in IR Committee, I have learned much on IR, its roots and its exponential growth potential through this reflection. I strongly suggest my fellow medical students to consider IR as a field in which to spend the next forty years of their careers.

References

  1. Mentoring needed to draw more women into IR 2015 [Available from: https://interventionalnews.com/mentoring-needed-to-draw-more-women-into-ir/.
  2. Rosch J, Keller FS, Kaufman JA. The birth, early years, and future of interventional radiology. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2003;14(7):841-53.
  3. Moore FD, Priebe C. Board-certified physicians in the United States, 1971-1986. N Engl J Med. 1991;324(8):536-43.
  4. Women in interventional radiology: Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR); 2018 [Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BkatPj4giQ.
  5. Englander M, Belli A. Women Can Lead the Way for the Future of Interventional Radiology. Endovascular Today. Englander, M.J.; Belli, A.M.
  6. Kumari D, Walker L, Bochnakova T, Mitchell S, Buethe J. Women in interventional radiology: factors that influence women to pursue IR. Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.29(4):S172.
  7. Bailey C, Sok M, Komorowski D. Entrance of women into interventional radiology lags behind other surgically oriented specialties. Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology. 2017;28(2):S187–S8.
  8. Zener R, Lee SY, Visscher KL, Ricketts M, Speer S, Wiseman D. Women in Radiology: Exploring the Gender Disparity. J Am Coll Radiol. 2016;13(3):344-50 e1.
  9. Higgins MC, Hwang WT, Richard C, Chapman CH, Laporte A, Both S, et al. Underrepresentation of Women and Minorities in the United States IR Academic Physician Workforce. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2016;27(12):1837-44 e2.
  10. Galt V. Women entering the professions in unprecedented numbers. The Globe and Mail. 2016.
  11. Belli A. The IR Gender Gap. BSIR; 2017.