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As undergraduates, young doctors are often influenced by good teachers/speakers

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Radiology as a medical discipline has a long-standing history of having the lowest women representation among all medical fields all over the world. Given the job security and demand for female radiologists, especially in the Indian scenario, where working women have to manage work, home and kids, radiology as a profession with a controlled lifestyle would seem more appealing.

owever surprisingly, multiple studies done all over the world have seen a relatively fewer number of female doctors opting for this field. As against 40-50 per cent representation of females in any medical profession, radiology consisted of <1/3rd female residents, as reflected in a recent report by AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) in 2015.

Is it really important to have an equal number of females as males in any field? Does it really make a difference? Equal representation of females in any workplace not only reflects a strong team with no gender bias but has also shown to be important in patient care. Diversity among healthcare professionals is not only important in religion and ethnicity but also in gender as it reflects the diverse population that we cater to.

A study was done by Lara Hewett, a medical student from South Carolina, published in Academic Radiology states the cause of low percentage of females to be the pipeline of female students opting for this branch rather than gender bias in this field. Multiple reasons have been put forth by experts in the past few years.

As undergraduates, young doctors are often influenced by good teachers/ speakers. It makes them aim higher and visualise a promising future. There are very few female radiologists seen as heads of departments, chairing big positions, research guides or editors of major radiology journals. It is important to have a female role model for young females to choose this speciality. Promoting deserving female radiologists to become leaders will make it easier to encourage females to enter radiology.

Radiology is not a part of the undergraduate medical curriculum until the final year, hence exposure to this branch is very late. Most students already make up their mind about their favourite speciality by then. The internship at the end of the training merely has 15 days radiology posting which is far from sufficient to get a good peek into the prospects of this branch. The lack of insight into the field fails to generate interest amongst students to take it up as a life long profession. It is only in the first year of radiology residency that students realise the impact of radiologist’s job in patient management.

Radiation exposure may also be one of the reasons some females hesitate to take up radiology. Radiology associations across the world must increase awareness amongst undergraduate students that radiation when used reasonably and responsibly in safe limits with appropriate monitoring, negates health hazards. There needs to be no radiation-related fear in the minds of female undergraduates willing to choose this speciality.

There is relatively less patient contact in radiology as compared to other clinical branches and thus may hinder female doctors who are willing to choose a branch with more patient interaction. These students must look at breast imaging and paediatric radiology as future prospects. In India, sociology as a subset of radiology remains a good career option for females who want to refrain from working in radiation or who wish to have more patient interaction.

In our country, this profession is seen as an opportunity with potential for a lucrative private setup thereby attracting more men to this field. Also, technology as a subject has always been more attractive to men compared to women and may be one of the many reasons for the gender disparity. This is merely a theory and all bright medical students, male or female is unlikely to be afraid of technological advances.

In recent years, there has been some bridging of the gender gap in radiology in India. Statistics in other countries also show an increase in the percentage of female radiologists in age group <35yrs which is very promising. Young doctors should remember that the flexibility of lifestyle choices offered by this profession ranges from interventional radiology, private practice, hospital job or work from home which is incomparable to any other medical profession today. With more efforts from major radiology associations in India and across the world, the apparent gaps in the system can be filled and gender disparity in this major medical discipline can be hopefully resolved in the coming years.

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