Can you share your journey into interventional radiology and what inspired you to pursue this specialty?

Before I did my first interventional radiology rotation in residency, I knew I was going to like it, despite not having spent any time in the IR suite as a medical student. I enjoyed procedures, challenges, team work and anything hands on. That being said, I had no idea I was going to love it. As each day of my rotation went on, I realized that this was the type of environment I wanted to work in, the type of work I wanted to be doing and the type of team I wanted to be a part of. Once I started to get more involved in the IR world, with CAIR for example, I was getting to know interventional radiologists at different stages of their careers and through learning about their careers, involvement in the IR community and their journeys, which solidified that this was a career path I wanted to pursue.

Seeing the range of procedures that IRs performed, the innovation involved in the day to day practice and industry side of things drew me even more to the career. As I worked with interventional radiologists at different stages of their careers, their passion was inspiring, I had not yet met a subgroup of radiologists who loved their careers as much as IRs seemed to. After my first month on an IR rotation, I was hooked, I knew that I wanted to grow a career like this and to be part of this a team and community that is passionate and innovative.

What are some key challenges you faced as a woman in interventional radiology, and how did you overcome them?

As a female trainee interested in and working towards a career in interventional radiology, the main challenge I have faced is finding and connecting with female mentors in the IR community. Simply due to the small percentage of females in IR, it has been challenging to meet and get to know someone to be a mentor in the field. One of the ways that I have been able to find and connect with mentors has largely been through spending time at conferences, being a part the CAIR organization, and taking the time to network with individuals outside of my local community.

Another key challenge that I have faced is hearing negative comments from those outside of interventional radiology about my desire and plans to pursue a career in interventional radiology. For example, it is not uncommon for other trainees or staff to mention that it is a busy career with risk of radiation exposure, and also comment on the difficulty of having a family or having children while working as a female interventional radiologist. The best way I found to overcome this was to remind myself that these comments were not coming directly from people who had experience in the area, and I would take the time to speak with others who have had years of experience working as an Interventional Radiologist and listen to their lived experiences as female IRs.

In getting to know female IRs who have worked for several years, had children and are incredibly successful, I was able to reassure myself that any negative comments I had heard were likely coming from a place of lack of understanding about the situation. While some people may have been mentioning these items from a good place or thoughts of concern, it has been ongoingly reassuring the more I hear from experiences female IRs who do not even mention the same negative concerns about being a female in the field of IR, but instead talk about the support they have received as a female in the field.

How has the landscape of interventional radiology evolved over the years, especially in terms of gender representation?

As I am still in the early years of my journey, I am not able to provide a representative comment on this topic as it pertains to the last several years. I would like to highlight though, that in only the past 2 years, during my involvement with the CAIR Resident, Fellow and Student Section (RFS) I have seen an increase in the number of female residents and students who are interested in pursuing a career in Interventional Radiology. Furthermore, I have seen a substantial amount of increased interest from medical students of all backgrounds involved with the CAIR RFS and who are interested in interventional radiology. Through my experience with the RFS I am certain that in the past few years alone, IR has become a more well known specialty amongst trainees and that it will continue to grow in diversity in the years to come.

Can you share any insights into the networking opportunities available for women in interventional radiology?

The CAIR organization offers a few different avenues for networking opportunities with women in IR. Being an involved member of the CAIR RFS opens the door to meet other female trainees who are interested in IR and to work together on the RFS. The CAIR RFS also hosts an annual Women in IR virtual panel which is an excellent opportunity to hear from some of the amazing female leaders in IR across our nation. The CAIR Annual Scientific Meeting is an excellent in-person event to attend and be able to learn from and meet women in IR, at the ASM there is a Women in IR Cocktail event which has been an incredibly successful event in the past years and is an excellent opportunity to attend and chat with other women in IR.

Are there any specific organizations or conferences that you recommend for networking and career development in interventional radiology?

The CAIR ASM, SIR in the United States and CIRSE in Europe are three of the larger conferences that I have personally attended, enjoyed and been able to network at. Each of these are excellent conferences and there is ample opportunity to submit research and presentations for opportunities to present and for funding. Even if you are not submitting a presentation, simply attending these meetings is a great way to learn more about interventional radiology and to meet other likeminded trainees.

What advice do you have for women in interventional radiology who are navigating leadership roles within the specialty?

Start now, work on honing your skills as a leader even as a trainee. Be patient, take the time to learn about yourself as a leader and to learn with and from your team members. Keep one foot in the door, as best you can, create and maintain healthy relationships with colleagues in the IR community, both at your institution and around the country. If you encounter difficult situations and are unsure how to navigate them, don’t be afraid to reach out to a peer or mentor to discuss the situation and ask for help working through it. Lastly, trust in your ability to succeed in a leadership role, and work hard to maintain a high standard for yourself.

What steps can women take to foster a supportive and collaborative community within the interventional radiology field?

In my opinion, the most important thing that everyone who is part of the interventional radiology community can do is to support and encourage others in their endeavors. It is so simple to be kind and encouraging to others as they work towards their goals and as a woman in the field, it is so important to not only be an ally but to recognize one as well. It is important to take the time to create connections with other women who are both in the field of IR and who are interested in a future career in IR. Some of the times I have felt the most comfortable and supported have been when female leaders in the field of IR have engaged in simple, everyday conversations with me. It is valuable to create an open environment that fosters positivity and support for women on their journey to and through a career in interventional radiology.

Can you speak to any initiatives or projects you’ve been involved in that aim to address gender disparities or enhance the representation of women in interventional radiology?

I have been fortunate to be a part of several initiatives which enhance the representation of women in interventional radiology, many of which are through the CAIR organization or through similar societies and communities such as SIR.

The CAIR hosts a Women in IR cocktail and their Annual Scientific Meeting, and it has been an excellent opportunity to attend the event, meet other women in radiology who are staff, trainees as well as technologists and nurses in the field.

Similarly, at the SIR Annual Scientific Meeting I have been fortunate to be able to attend Women in IR sessions, to learn about other’s experiences and also to meet other women in IR.

Alongside the strong female leadership of the CAIR organization, I have been fortunate to join the executive director and President in meetings with other organizations such as BSIR to engage in discussions around diversity within their leadership teams and organization.

Over the past two years since I have been with the CAIR RFS, the RFS team has put together some amazing virtual Women in IR events, with a panel of esteemed speakers. Being a part of the RFS and simply watching the Women in IR committee grow and work together to plan events such as these has, in itself, been an incredible experience. Through efforts such as this, I am certain that there will be changes in the diversity of trainees who are interested in interventional radiology and who pursue it as a career path.