By Tammy McCaudland
This blog post sources its content from “Diversity Matters,” an article published in April 2020 in SROA’s quarterly news publication Radiation Oncology News for Administrators.
“If you look at the top 20 specialties, radiation oncology ranks at the bottom with respect to women and minorities, so we need to figure out what we are not doing a good enough job at, recruiting these folks that are going into other specialties,” said Dr. Curtiland Deville, clinical director of Radiation Oncology at Sibley Memorial Hospital and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We can’t just say we need to increase the pipeline because even if we increase the pipeline, history has shown us that we’re not attracting them into radiation oncology.”
Discussions about the “pipeline problem”—that is, the underrepresentation of certain minority groups—in radiation oncology often miss the fact that there is greater representation of women and minorities in other areas of medicine, Dr. Deville said. While radiation oncology is one of the most competitive specialties, he suggested the scope of entrants needs to be broadened so it’s more reflective of the patient population.
Administrators can focus on diversity in physician hiring and in residency and training programs They can also provide staff with bias training. Dr. Deville offered four suggestions:
Administrators can inventory what practices they use at their institutions to recruit, engage and welcome students from underrepresented groups. They can hold talks in course curriculum and oncology curriculum, invite students to their department, make use of the ASTRO Minority Summer Fellowship or the ASCO Medical Student Summer Rotation for Underrepresented Students, and create opportunities within their own departments.
Because radiation oncology is such a small field, administrators may need to look within their institution overall to ensure they’re creating an inclusive culture. There may also be opportunities within the broader campus to create an inclusive culture. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania where Dr. Deville completed his residency, there was a minority faculty development cohort program, grouped by academic tracks. There were regular meetings where participants could present their research, ideas or issues, and also offer support, information and resources.
Diversity is about more than having a cultural day, a diversity committee or doing diversity rounds—it’s about trying to have a deeper experience or impact. “There’s an analogy that I heard a speaker from the AAMC [Association of American Medical Colleges] use. . . diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance,” he said. “I’ve always liked that. Sure, it’s great to be invited to the party, but you want to make sure that once you’re there, you’re still welcoming, you’re still inviting people in.”
What are some practices that you use to recruit, engage and welcome underrepresented groups? Let us know in a comment below!