Improving Health Through Medical Physics

#WomenWhoCurie: Using Social Media to Promote Awareness of Women in Radiation Oncology

Jennifer Pursley, PhD | Boston, MA

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 44 No. 3 — May | June 2019

November 7 is a notable day for medical physics. It's the anniversary of Marie Curie's birth, and as such, has been selected as the annual International Day of Medical Physics by the International Organization for Medical Physics. The theme of IDMP in 2018 was “Medical Physics for Patient Benefit,” and you can see a list of activities and video messages for the public on the IOMP's website. But in 2018, the IDMP shared Madame Curie's birth anniversary with another important campaign – the trending hashtag #WomenWhoCurie.

As explained in their open access article in Advances in Radiation Oncology[1], #WomenWhoCurie was launched by members of the Society for Women in Radiation Oncology (SWRO). This group was founded in 2017 by a group of Radiation Oncology residents with a mission of providing a platform to promote women in the field of radiation oncology, to support trainees and faculty, and to champion gender equality in oncology[2]. As part of these efforts, SWRO members took inspiration from the #ILookLikeAnEngineer and #ILookLikeASurgeon social media campaigns, which aimed to break the stereotypes of these traditionally male-dominated fields by showcasing the diversity of modern practitioners (these also inspired the hashtag #ILookLikeAPhysicist in August 2015 for the same purpose). SWRO decided that Marie Curie's birth anniversary would be an auspicious date to launch their campaign, to further highlight her essential contributions to the discovery and clinical use of radiation while promoting the contributions of today's women in the field of radiation oncology. They encouraged all women radiation oncologists to take pictures capturing what it means to them to be part of this field and post those to social media with the #WomenWhoCurie hashtag. The response was enormous and inspiring as posts came from over 700 individual contributors around the world; many women radiation oncologists also included other colleagues in their pictures, such as other women members of the department in roles of therapist, nurse, dosimetrist, or medical physicist, and men in the department who wanted to show their support of women colleagues. ASTRO created a twitter moment to commemorate the event, and some of the images are collected on the SWRO's webpage.

The initial event was not intended as a research project, but due to the enthusiastic response the SWRO registered the hashtag with the Symplur Healthcare Hashtag Project[1] to facilitate social media analytics. The article contains more detailed information on the use of the hashtag and impressions, the number of potential views based on the number of retweets and number of followers of participants. Although November 7 has passed, the hashtag #WomenWhoCurie continues to highlight the contributions of women to the field of radiation oncology. It is being used to bring attention to achievements such as winning an award or grant funding, giving an informative lecture at a conference or seminar, or even for day-to-day excellence in care. Please consider promoting the women in your own department, while simultaneously showcasing the excellence of your department, by participating in social media!

Members of the Massachusetts General Hospital Brachytherapy Team Members of the Massachusetts General Hospital brachytherapy team in between cases, posted on Instagram by the author (@jmppursley) for #WomenWhoCurie and #IDMP2018 on Nov 7, 2018
  1. Albert AA, Knoll MA, Doke K, Masters A, Lee A, Dover L, Hentz C, Puckett L, Goodman CR, Osborn VW, Barry P, and Jagsi R. “#WomenWhoCurie: Leveraging Social Media to Promote Women in Radiation Oncology.” Article in Press, published online Jan 29, 2019, Advances in Radiation Oncology.
  2. Masters AH. “#WomenWhoCurie Day.” ASTRO Blog, posted Feb 13, 2019.

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