A few months ago, I got an e-mail from a successful but isolated interventionalist working north of Seattle. She reached out, wanting to connect in real life. She shared her story on the blog in Real Life Superheroine, LK. Connecting with her inspired me to write a list of the ways women in interventional radiology and similar fields can connect virtually. Because we share common concerns and goals, it’s important we use the tools we have to support one another. Though we may be relatively few in number, we form a tribe in medicine, and we’re stronger together for it!
With all the connections I’ve aggregated over time, I can’t remember the last time I felt alone in my career. But I can tell you, as a woman in a competitive, male-dominated field, there are times in the past I felt ALONE. Through this platform, I want to help eliminate the sense of isolation that many women in male-dominated fields face. Becoming a doctor is hard enough without feeling isolated on top of it! So here are some surefire ways to connect with your tribe in medicine.
Social media can help bridge the gap between training and attendinghood. On Instagram, a resident followed me, then reached out via private message. We formed an easy bond, and she shared some of her challenges as a second year radiology resident. One day, as I glanced at my feed, I stopped short. I grew flushed. She’d posted:
“This is dedicated to someone who unknowingly inspired me through her writing, blog, and career. Midway through my first year of residency, I started to feel disillusioned by my career choice. The reasons were many including my first time living states away from my immediate family, and struggling with the demands of learning a completely new language in medicine, “radiology,” among other transitions.
“It was during this time that I came across a post written by @tiredsuperheroine, A Radiologist Saved my Father’s Life, which I have read time and again. It has kept me grounded, and reminded me of the importance of my training. That what we do as radiologists matters, despite being behind the scenes. That our role in medicine is essential.
“Thank you @tiredsuperheroine for being a role model, and for sharing your thoughts with us. You may never know all the people: trainees, radiologists, etc. whose lives you touch, but here’s to recognition of at least one whose life you absolutely impacted in a positive way <3.”
I’ll try to explain how her post made me feel. Blogging, especially in the beginning, is a lot of work without much feedback. So after months of putting my writing on the web, her recognition shook me to the core. It reaffirmed my mission, to help light the way for my fellow women in medicine. And she verified what I suspected when I started this project over a year ago: that this message can make a difference to real people, across the country and beyond.
Technology improves our access to each other, improving our ability to mentor and sponsor. As an example, a colleague from residency put me in touch with her resident who was interested in IR, but lacking a female role model. Through our phone conversations, I helped reassure her of her plans. There was an easy understanding between us. Even across time zones, I felt I was welcoming a new member into the tribe.
Then, I had a bolt of inspiration. Not only could I be a sounding board for this young woman; I could be her sponsor. She’d soon be applying for ESIR and fellowship spots, and I knew a couple of women in academic IR in her region. I introduced them via email, and a short time later, they met in person. With these new connections, she’ll have an “in” at some top programs in the Northeast. This is the power of finding your tribe in medicine.
Professionally, I live for these moments: when I realize I can and MUST connect two people in different circles. In 2020, it’s easier than ever to introduce people operating in different social circles, hospitals, or training programs. Our opportunities to connect seem exponentially greater compared to when I grew up. We’ve come a long way since the days of contacting people using landlines and snail mail!
We are living in an amazing time in history; we can connect with people around the globe with the stroke of a few keys. This connectivity has the power to improve your quality of life, especially as a women in medicine. Recently, an IR in Saudi Arabia reached out to me, hoping I could serve as a resource as she started her own women in IR group. Through incredible adversity, she’s risen as the first female IR in her region, and I’m proud to call her part of my tribe.
Even state-side, women in medicine are finding and supporting each other through social media. Through private groups, we can converse, support, and strategize. In these forums, we share each other’s joys and sorrows. We share common challenges, from with childcare issues to choosing the right dress for an event. In big and small ways, we strengthen our sense of community.
The following are some of my favorite ways to connect with women in IR, and in medicine at large. Through these sites, groups, and hashtags, you can find others like you. You can find your tribe in medicine. It’s worth the extra screen time, I promise.
First of all, if you haven’t already, you can sign up for my email list, so you can receive weekly updates from the blog. As you know by now, I write about work-life integration & financial empowerment as a physician leader and a mom on call. When you get my emails, you can respond to me directly, whenever you have a question or feedback. Tell me how you’re doing, what your challenges are, and what you need. I will try to help you, or point you in the right direction.
For those of you not on Twitter yet, I encourage you to make an account. I was a late adopter, but have since found Twitter to be a surprising platform for professional networking. It has connected me with physicians around the world, providing access to their varied perspectives. Beyond drive-by conversations in the hallways, you can use Twitter to connect to the larger conversation happening in healthcare. And there’s a lot to discuss these days.
If you’re an IR, or aspire to become one, Twitter is a place to share cool cases, and admire others’. Some even use the platform like a living curriculum vitae! There are hashtags you can use to find people interested in similar niches, like peripheral artery disease (PAD), for example. Some key hashtags for IR include, but aren’t limited to:
#iRad, #interventionalradiology, #TwittIR, #minimallyinvasive, #MIIP, #withoutascalpel, #cancer, #angiogram, #embolization, #WeAreIR, #mentorship, #medtwitter,, #MedStudentTwitter, and #RadChicks, just to name a few.
Some great people to follow, chat up, or tag on Twitter include: @TSuperheroine (me), @SIRSpecialists, @SIRRFS, @SIR_ECS, and @RadiologyChicks. There are hundreds more, so get online and find them!
Beyond IR, I use Twitter to connect with the personal finance community. With my fellow finance nerds, I share ideas and gain inspiration that percolates back into my blog. Twitter’s a wellspring for the financially empowered. Collaboration can happen in an instant when you retweet and amplify the messages of others. A couple hashtags in this arena are #financialliteracy and #personalfinance.
I get fired up about the work of my fellow bloggers. When my friend B.C. Krygowski released her book, I wrote a review on the blog, and helped amplify her message. A page-turner, the book has truly perspective and life-altering tips on how to travel, live, and save better. That’s why it felt so good to promote it.
Aside from B.C., there are a couple of bloggers who are always with me: they believe in me, and I can feel it. Just a connection at a conference is enough to encourage a fledgling blogger, through a few moments together, with ideas exchanged. I thought of PassiveIncomeMD as I landed my first ad client on the blog. That’s because he was the one who encouraged me to find some form of steady income, so I could get help when I needed it, and have the resources to grow. He supports me even now, without knowing how much that conversation influenced me.
I love cross-pollinating expertise and ideas with other creators from PhysicianZen, who’s working on a productivity book for doctors, to Dr. McFrugal, who riffs on lifestyle optimization & travel hacking. It’s a privilege to share their ideas with you, my fellow superheroines.
I’ve found real thought leaders on Instagram. From other IRs, to physicians in other specialties who inspire and educate. “Insta” is an image-rich, but also an idea-rich space, if you follow the right accounts. Some of my favorites include: @randdiabmd, @docfuji, @joy.energy.time, @chicnpetitemd, @t.in.the.leadcoat, @learning.ir, @radiology_af_, @radiology_chicks, @_backtable, @heart.beat.doctor, @drdarewreck, and my own, @tiredsuperheroine.
My private Facebook group is Tired Superheroines. It’s a place for women in male-dominated fields and their allies to discuss work-life balance and financial empowerment.
Through the SIR, you can connect to other women in the specialty by joining the Women in IR, or “WIR” Section. There are separate but women in IR committees on the attending and the trainee side. If you’re a student or resident, you should consider getting involved in the Women in IR committee of the Residents, Fellows, and Students Section. Each committee works to amplify the work of the other. But they are governed separately, and work on separate projects too. To get more information or sign up as a volunteer for the SIR, click here.
In simpler times, before the coronavirus outbreak, we could connect in person, at our yearly meeting. Sadly, but prudently, this year’s meeting in Seattle was canceled. In any case, each year’s meeting features dedicated Women in IR programming, including our InspIRed lecture, featuring a thought leader in medicine.
Formally organized and informal meet-ups abound at these meetings, allowing ample opportunity to make quick connections and fast friendships. For me, these friendships have become the basis for what I think will lifelong friendships. That’s why I highly recommend attending the meetings, and if you can, volunteering in the society. Both are fabulous ways to connect and learn valuable skills.
To assist in meet-ups, or to share ideas, many favor WhatsApp. You can form chat groups to quickly organize. I’ve even used these groups to share clinical experiences and challenging cases, assuming you’re HIPAA compliant, of course.
In speaking with LK, real superheroine… I was struck by something she said.
“I intentionally stay away from most social media. With so little free time, and so much of it in front of screens, I just can’t bear to have more of my life energy/time sucked away. But I probably do miss out on connecting and support for this reason. Still, finding a more personal, tangible connection seems more valuable, and more worth the time invested if I can find it.”
In part as a result of this conversation with her, I’m compelled to put together a retreat for women in IR & surgery next year. If you want to see this happen, let me know. And make sure you’re signed up for my email list, so you don’t miss a thing.
Tell me, who’s down for a relaxing, inspiring retreat in the Palm Springs area in 2021?
The path can be riddled with failures, even if you're doing it right. In this recording, I share some of my gaffes with you.