Improving Health Through Medical Physics

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 42 No.5 — September|October 2017


Picture of Lauren Courlas Long
Teams in Medicine: The Value of Diversity

The 2017 Women Physicist Luncheon was held during the AAPM Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. The luncheon was well attended by women professionals in various stages of their careers and, similar to previous years, it was a sold out event with over 200 attendees. In addition to many women in the audience, it was great to see several men in attendance as well. This year's luncheon focused on the value of diversity in teams in the medical field. The meeting format returned to that of previous years by featuring an invited speaker.

The meeting began with a warm welcome and opening remarks from the Women's Professional Subcommittee Chair, Laura Cerviño. The AAPM President, Melissa Martin, followed with her President's address. The accomplishments of the luncheon participants were acknowledged and they were asked to stand when called out by category. First, Fellows were asked to stand, followed by committee members or those closely involved in the AAPM organization, and lastly anyone who had received awards during the meeting. It was heartening to see how many women in the room had been recognized for their contributions to the organization and the field of medical physics and were currently holding volunteer positions on committees, working groups, and task groups. In fact, over half of the AAPM EXCOM positions for 2018 are held by women, including the President-Elect-Designate (Cynthia McCollough), Secretary (Susan Richardson), and Chair of the Board (Melissa Martin), who were all in attendance at the luncheon.

After the opening remarks and President's address, Laura Cerviño introduced the keynote speaker for the event, Dr. Valerie P. Jackson. Dr. Jackson is the Executive Director of the ABR and is the Eugene C. Klatte Emeritus Professor of Radiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. She was recognized at the AAPM Awards Ceremony earlier in the meeting and proudly received an Honorary Membership. Dr. Jackson's son is a medical physicist in Australia, so in addition to her professional work with medical physicists as a radiologist, she also has a personal connection to our field.

Dr. Jackson's talk focused on the value of diversity in teams, including gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. She opened her presentation with snapshots of Apple's famous 1984 advertising campaign introducing the Macintosh, which displayed numerous men all identically dressed in grey, followed by a female protagonist who enters, dressed in color. She also displayed a slide with pictures of various historical figures from Apple's "Think Different" campaign, including, among others, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Amelia Earhart, highlighting the diversity of this group of visionaries. Dr. Jackson discussed the value of working with people who are different than you, and the many benefits associated with diverse teams, such as increased innovation and creativity, as well as improved team effectiveness and success. She provided tools and advice on promoting diversity within our organizations, including showcasing our diversity to candidates during the hiring process at our institutions.

2017 Annual Meeting Women's Luncheon

Dr. Jackson also commented on the importance of communication skills and emotional intelligence, given the team nature of our workplaces and the need to interact with other physicists, physicians and staff. Dr. Jackson was an enthusiastic and engaging speaker and was well received by the audience. She was impressed by the attendance at our luncheon and noted that our numbers were considerably higher than the corresponding RSNA women's luncheon that she has previously attended.

2017 Annual Meeting Women's Luncheon

Following Dr. Jackson's presentation, audience members had an opportunity to ask questions. Many contributed to the discussion and some described personal experiences based on themes and issues highlighted during the presentation. The issue of bias in the workplace and tools to overcome it was discussed by several attendees. One audience member recommended a book, Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, which, among other topics, discusses the importance of being aware of our own biases so that we can better manage and avoid them in our decision making. Another audience member noted the importance of thanking and recognizing your colleagues and staff when they acknowledge and take action against biased comments or actions in the workplace. Given Dr. Jackson's role in the ABR, she was asked about bias throughout the exam process and commented on what they have done to minimize bias, particularly within the oral exam.

The topic of mentorship and the importance of mentors in one's career was also briefly discussed and an audience member provided suggestions for finding mentors, including using the annual meeting as an opportunity to approach women leaders and connect with them over shared clinical interests or research projects.

This wonderful luncheon was organized by Jaclyn Marcel, with contributions from other members of the WPSC and our AAPM staff. It would not have been possible without the generous support from the following luncheon sponsors: Landauer, Nelco, QalibreMD, Radcal, MD Anderson Cancer Center, ACR, CivaTech Oncology, DOSIsoft, LAP Laser, Modus QA, RADformation, RIT, and Sun Nuclear Corporation.

If you have yet to attend this event, please consider joining us at next year's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. It is a great opportunity to network and connect with women medical physicists from different backgrounds while enjoying a delicious meal. Be sure to register early, tickets go fast!

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