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Career & Leadership

Women in interventional radiology

May 10, 2020

My mission is to help demystify what life is like in a male-dominated field of medicine. Join me!!

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Did you know the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) formed a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board a couple of years ago? I just finished my stint serving on this board, which worked to engineer greater diversity in our field. The board’s activities included direct outreach to medical schools, educating the SIR membership, and benchmarking our progress, to name a few. The idea behind this initiative is that a diverse IR workforce is better for the long-term health of our specialty. Inhomogeneous groups produce fresh, new ideas with their varied perspectives- they’re more innovative. And an IR workforce that reflects the diversity of the population, including more women in interventional radiology, is one that can connect with patients, ultimately delivering better care.

But as the society continues to work toward these lofty goals, my objective is more personal. My idea of diversity & inclusion is centered around the individual. I urge you to claim responsibility for your career choice, even if you doubt it’s possible. It’s up to you to pursue the specialty that lights you up, even if others try to dissuade you from it. Ultimately, you’ll be the one showing up to work day after day. So don’t settle in your career choice. This post is about inclusion as it relates to you, the woman who wants to operate.  

What does inclusion mean for the student or trainee?

In entering a field that’s not particularly diverse yet, you’ll encounter some struggles, and your mentors, friends, even this blog can help! Get the support you need to address the pain points, and encourage you when you need it. Because becoming an IR or surgeon is worth it. The specialty you choose should be determined by your own preferences and strengths, not by the current demographics of the field.

It’s hard to have confidence in pursuing such an elite career path, when you’re not sure what the future looks like. It’s even harder to imagine it without someone you can relate to, showing you the way.

Fear of the unknown?

You might worry about balancing your future responsibilities as a physician, parent, spouse, business partner… or whatever combination of roles you envision. It’s understandable if you worry about being stretched too thin. It’s reasonable to wonder whether you’ll be paid what you’re worth, or less than your male colleagues. These are valid concerns, and I know you can thrive in spite of them.

You might be lacking in a role model who looks like you, or who shares a background like yours. If you’re the only woman in the room, and the next female surgeon is living in the next state over, I hope to serve as a virtual mentor or colleague. Like a beacon, I can light the way with some of my experiences. I’ve been there.

Closing the gender pay gap

My mission is to help empower as many women in medicine as possible. The gender pay gap isn’t just about equal pay for equal work, but about women disqualifying themselves from certain well- compensated specialties, often for the wrong reasons. If we want to abolish the wage gap in medicine, women must pour into highly compensated fields like IR. If your passion lies in a low-paying specialty, you may still feel well-compensated by the work itself. But if you’re counting yourself out of a field you love, just because it’s a boys’ club, consider the financial ramifications. The price of staying in your comfort zone could be half the salary.

Women and burnout

There is lots of talk about why women physicians burn out at a higher rate than men. There could be a number of factors putting us at risk, but given my experience over the past decade, I’m worried it too often relates to:

a) settling on a specialty based on perceived lifestyle factors and/or advice tinged with benevolent sexism, and

b) feeling under-valued over time through a lack of fair compensation & leadership opportunities. 

Find your tribe in medicine

So how do you figure out where you belong in medicine, or how to navigate what often feels like a man’s world? In the coming months, I’ll be publishing my very first book, Find Your Tribe in Medicine. It’s for women who aspire to the procedural and surgical sub-specialties. It’ll feature the voices of my interventional and surgical colleagues, alongside my own. I hope it can serve as a guide, as you find your craft and find your people. I am so excited to help you find your place in medicine. Make sure you’re on my e-mail list, to be notified when it’s released!

A must watch for women in interventional radiology & surgery

And in case you were growing weary from the sexist scenarios and comments you’re facing, I want you to watch this video below.

One night, my toilet wouldn’t stop running, and in an effort to fix something minor myself, I looked it up, encountering this channel by Roger Wakefield, a plumber in Dallas. After learning about some of the things that might be causing my toilet issue, I found this video on women in plumbing. There are so many parallels between what these plumbers discuss in the video, and women in interventional radiology. It’s shockingly relatable as they discuss the challenge of recruiting more women into trades like plumbing. 

Lest you judge these guys too quickly, they are unbelievable advocates for women in this discussion. I found it heartwarming to watch, and I hope you do too. Honestly, I was afraid to look at the comments, since ugly trolls can lurk there. But the comments are overwhelmingly positive too. 

The point is, we can all learn from each other, even across “trades.” And if two bald white plumbers in Texas can be this progressive, I think there is hope for all of us!

Sending hugs and encouragement! -TiredSuperheroine

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  1. Christine Chavez says:

    Excited to hear you are putting out a book! I love your message of female empowerment. I watched the plumber video, it’s refreshing to see these guys encouraging and supporting women to enter the trades. Not everybody is college bound and trade skills are in high demand and lucrative. I could see my youngest daughter going into a trade if she had a passion for a specific field. She helps my husband with all sorts of home and car maintenance projects. Keep up the great work!

    • Tired Superheroine says:

      Thanks Christine, that’s awesome! I wanted to do shop in high school but it conflicted with too many of my classes! I can see why she finds it interesting. And nothing is more useful than being able to fix things around the house!!

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