Improving Health Through Medical Physics


Cynthia McCollough, PhD | Rochester, MN

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 44 No.1 — January | February 2019

Before I comment on the topic of the article, I want to say thank you to some very special AAPM members and staff.

Melissa Martin has completed three years of extraordinary service to AAPM as part of the presidential chain, completing her term as Chair of the Board at the end of 2018. In addition to running a successful consulting business, Melissa has made volunteering a major focus of her professional career. Her many contributions to medical physics have been widely recognized. In addition to being a Fellow of the ACMP, AAPM and (as of 2018) the IOMP, Melissa received the Marvin M.D. Williams Professional Achievement Award in 2009 and the Edith H. Quimby Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. As a past liaison to the CRCPD, IOMP, ACR, RSNA, ARRT and AHRA, Melissa has built relationships with physicians, administrators, technologists, and regulators that have advanced the field of medical physics and enhanced the standing of AAPM. Thank you, Melissa, for your commitment to our field and to serving our community!

Another officer that I would like to acknowledge is Bruce Thomadsen, who served AAPM tirelessly in 2018 as its president. Throughout his presidential year, Bruce made it a priority to listen and respond to membership, initiating action on many of the topics raised in the 2016 member survey. In general, the survey showed that members are pleased with AAPM and value membership and the many associated benefits. That doesn't mean, however, that we didn't get feedback. Bruce read each and every comment in the 180-page report, led discussions as to what strategy might be taken to address the various concerns, and then followed up with the appropriate committee or group to initiate action to respond in a positive way to the feedback received. Thank you Bruce for your servant leadership. Thanks also for your help in "learning the ropes" this past year.

Finally, two of our leaders at AAPM Headquarters reached major milestone anniversaries this year. Both our Executive Director, Angela Keyser, and our Director of Meetings and Programs, Lisa Rose Sullivan, celebrated 25 years with AAPM! As an officer, I work very closely with our Headquarters' staff, who are a highly motivated, talented, and resourceful group of individuals, most of whom have been with AAPM for the majority of their careers. The low turn-over rate, positive environment, and can-do attitude at Headquarters are a testament to Angela's leadership skills. We have a great team at Headquarters who work on our behalf daily (and often nights and weekends too). The next time you see someone from Headquarters, please stop and introduce yourself, and thank them for their service. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and we definitely want to retain this terrific team.

Now let me turn to the topic of diversity. One of the recently approved strategic goals for AAPM focuses on diversity. Specifically, our goal is to Champion equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the field of medical physics. The first objective under this goal is to Evaluate EDI in AAPM organizational structure and activities. As this objective implies, we need to know where we are currently in terms of diversity within our membership, our volunteers, and our leadership. Without knowing our baseline status, we can't assess what needs exist or monitor if any implemented strategies are having a positive impact.

Diversity covers many characteristics, including (but not limited to): age, race and ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, political and religious beliefs, physical abilities, socioeconomic and geographic status, and education level. To embrace diversity is to welcome a heterogeneous mix across these (and perhaps other) characteristics. Again, to assess how we are doing on this matter as an organization, we need some method of quantifying these characteristics amongst our members. We do better at this for some characteristics than in others.

For example, of our 8985 members, 8910 chose to disclose their gender. Of these, we have 2066 females (23% of our membership). This percentage has steadily increased over time, climbing from 9%, for members over age 65, to 45%, in members age 26-35! This is a phenomenal achievement, showing that for those entering our field, we have essentially attained a balance in terms of gender. (I'd also like to note that in 2018, four of the six members of EXCOM were women!)

We do not, however, currently ask members about sexual orientation or provide gender identity choices other than male and female, although in our recent survey on diagnostic medical physics services, we received help from the Diversity Committee to determine what expanded classifications to use for that survey. Should we change our membership database to include this expanded list of options (male, female, trans male or trans man, trans female or trans woman, nonbinary or gender nonconforming, different identity than listed)? If yes, is this information that members are comfortable disclosing to a professional society? Similarly, do members believe that AAPM should ask about political and religious beliefs?

Interestingly, date of birth (i.e., age) does not seem to be a sensitive data element, as with the exception of staff and honorary members, nearly 99% of our members have disclosed this information to AAPM. Similarly, very few members chose not to disclose their ethnicity (Hispanic vs. non-Hispanic) or race (white, black or African American, American Indian, Asian Indian, Chinese, etc.).

As we increase our efforts toward creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive organization, it is likely that a greater amount of personal information may be requested of membership. Leadership would like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Julianne Pollard-Larkin is the chair of our Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee and Laura Cervino is the chair of our Women's Professional Subcommittee. I encourage you to contact them, or me, to share your thoughts on how we can best measure the diversity of our membership, without being too intrusive.

Thank you for taking the time to check out the newsletter this month. As always, if you have other thoughts, suggestions or insights to share, please feel free to contact any member of leadership or Headquarters staff.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and productive New Year.
-- Cynthia

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