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Strategies for Diversifying the Radiation Oncologist Workforce

Strategies for Diversifying the Radiation Oncologist Workforce featured by SROA

By Tammy McCausland


This blog post sources its content from “Diversity Matters,” an article published in SROA’s quarterly news publication Radiation Oncology News for Administrators in April 2020.


Published studies and statistics show that cancer patients from underrepresented populations tend to have poorer health outcomes. According to a 2017 ASCO Post article, “In oncology, just 2% of the physician workforce self-identifies as black/African American and 3% as Hispanic/Latino. In addition, the proportion of black/African American and Hispanic/Latino oncology fellows is consistently lower than many other fellowships in subspecialties in internal medicine.”


In the “Diversity Matters” article, Dr. Kevin Nead, an assistant professor of epidemiology and radiation oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, suggested ways to use available data to develop and integrate a better review process for applicants to radiation oncology residency programs. He offered six suggestions to help increase diversity:


  1. Reach out directly to all candidates, including those from underrepresented backgrounds. Since radiation oncology doesn’t always have a big presence in medical schools, hiring committees can connect with all medical school students and raise awareness about the specialty. Establishing a Diversity Search Advisor Program can also improve outreach to diverse applicants.
  2. Define evaluation criteria and respective weights given to those criteria before starting the applicant screening process. This step can help reduce decision makers’ inclinations to choose individuals similar to their own background or to radiation oncologists already employed within the department.
  3. Make the review process blind by concealing each applicant’s name, gender, photo, and minority and immigration status. Blinding the review process should be done before the face-to-face interviews.
  4. Separate application components and compare candidates within each category. When an applicant package is evaluated in its entirety, bias is more likely, while comparing candidates within one category at a time reduces bias.
  5. Standardize the interview questions asked. Historically interviews flow like a conversation, which can make it harder to compare responses. Standardized questions can make comparisons easier.
  6. Rank candidates according to the predetermined criteria specified in step 2.

These strategies can help the hiring committee make decisions based on more objective and balanced criteria rather than on a “feeling.” Dr. Nead recommended that those involved in hiring become aware of best practices and work to standardize the resident screening and recruiting process. He said, “Making the specialty more representative of the medical school population is an attainable goal. I believe that it can be improved by just some small, thoughtful changes to the way we approach bringing people into our specialty.”


We want to hear from you!

Does your organization use any of the suggestions from Dr. Kevin Nead to increase diversity?


Related content: 

Managing a Multigenerational Workforce in the Radiation Oncology Department




Nead KT, Linos E, Vapiwala N. “Increasing Diversity in Radiation Oncology: A Call to Action.” Advances in Radiation Oncology. 2019;4:226–8.


Cavallo J. “Increasing Racial and Ethnics Diversity in the Oncology Workforce.” The ASCO Post. October 10, 2017.


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