Improving Health Through Medical Physics

WPSC News Bites

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

2019 AAPM Awards and Honors Ceremony: The WPSC would like to congratulate in advance all the AAPM awardees and new fellows to be announced at the Awards and Honors Ceremony at the AAPM Annual Meeting on Monday July 15. We would particularly like to recognize Ellen D. Yorke, who will be receiving the Edith H. Quimby Lifetime Achievement Award — a well-deserved honor! Please plan on attending the ceremony to recognize the honorees.

Addressing gender disparity: Several interesting lectures and articles were published recently on the topic of recognizing and addressing gender disparity issues in science and technology fields, particularly in nuclear and medical physics. One is a presentation made by Rumina Velshi, the new president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, to the Women in Nuclear Canada Conference in Sept 2018. She spoke on her own and other women's experiences of not being welcomed or accepted in the science and technology fields, and the importance of changing the perceptions of what is "men's work" or "women's work" as early in a child's education as possible. Another two articles specifically for medical physics were published by Rowan Thompson, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor at Carleton University, Ottawa. Dr. Thompson published an opinion piece in Physics in Canada 2018 Vol 74 with her Carleton colleague David W. O. Rogers called "Take Action for Gender-Balanced and Diverse Scientific Meetings" in which they enumerate the benefits of diversity in conference speakers and suggest actions for conference planning committees to achieve speaker gender balance. Dr Thompson's second piece, "How we can turn the tide for women in science," in The Conversation also supports gender balance in scientific meetings and outreach efforts showcasing the possibility of careers in science and technology to girls and students at a young age.

Women in Nuclear (WiN): WiN Global is a worldwide non-profit association for women working in nuclear energy and radiation technology fields. WiN currently has around 35,000 members in more than 100 countries; many countries (including the US and Canada) have a local WiN chapter and host chapter meetings. The US WiN holds several regional conferences each year in addition to a national conference. This year the national conference will be held in Chicago on July 28–31 and the theme will be "20/20 Vision for the Future." The chapter also publishes freely available newsletters highlighting chapter activities; the January 2019 issue is available here. Anyone interested is welcome to join WiN.

Undoing disparities in faculty workloads: the results of a fascinating randomized trial were published recently in the peer-reviewed open access journal PLOS ONE. Titled "Undoing disparities in faculty workload: a randomized trial experiment," the authors began with the evidence that women and underrepresented minorities spend more time on service work, teaching, and mentoring than their male peers, and that these "institutional housekeeping" roles, while necessary, are not valued by the academic reward and advancement system. The consequences of bearing a higher service load, particularly in STEM fields, include increased time to achieve promotion and greater career dissatisfaction. The authors designed and implemented a controlled randomized trial of an intervention aimed at improving the equitable distribution of service work in a department over an 18-month period; one notable component was that service work was assigned and had to be "opted out of" rather than "opted into." Their results showed that at the end of the study, departments that instituted interventions had measurable improvements in transparency of faculty work activities. However, the 18-month period was not sufficiently long for all interventions to be implemented and longer follow-up is needed. The encouraging short-term results did indicate that greater transparency and more equitable workload balancing improved faculty satisfaction.

Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) special issue on Medical Physics: SCOPE, the IPEM's quarterly newsletter, published a focus on medical physics in the March 2019 issue (freely accessible to IPEM members). Mixed in with articles on predicting IMRT pass rates from plan complexity and the development of portable medical devices was an article titled "Gender equality: what is medical physics doing right?" The article was a summary of a joint meeting between the IOP Medical Physics and Women in Physics Groups which took place on Nov 12, 2018 in London, UK. Another summary, by Tami Freeman and published in Physics World, is available here. Both articles indicate there is a lot that medical physics is doing right; in the UK National Health Service, about 50% of early-career medical physicists are women, compared with 20% for other physics disciplines. However, the number of women medical physicists in senior positions in the NHS is about 20%, and there is still evidence of a gender pay gap across all levels. Some opportunities for improvement identified were: increased mentoring at all levels; more accommodation of flexible, part-time, or job-share positions; and a well-defined re-entry path back into the field after absence (such as while caring for family members or young children).

Seeking contributors! The WPSC Newsletter is published biannually in the spring and fall, and we are always on the lookout for news, stories, ideas, and features related to women in medical physics to include in future editions. Contributions and suggestions can be sent directly to the WPSC.

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