Although women have a long history of involvement in radiation going back to Madame Curie herself, we remain in the minority in the field of radiation oncology. A recent study even highlighted the trends over time, and as seen in the figure below the percentage of female trainees actually decreased over the most recent 5 years reported. (Ahmed et al “Female representation in the academic oncology physician workforce: radiation oncology losing ground to hematology-oncology” IJROBP 2017)
This trend became personal when, after having been surrounded by strong women all my life, I suddenly found myself in a male-dominated field and the only female doctor in my entire department. Fortunately the following year I was joined by my coresident Anna Lee, but together we still wished for a stronger network of women in our field. I started to ask around thinking that there may be others feeling similarly isolated, and Dr. Parul Barry whom I knew through ACRO, recommended that I reach out to Dr. Reshma Jagsi at University of Michigan, a radiation oncology attending who has studied gender extensively, particularly in academic medicine. Dr. Jagsi put me in contact with Genevieve Maquilan and Kimberly Thomas, residents at UT Southwestern at the time, who had also approached her. We were able to meet in person at ACRO in March 2017 where we put the wheels in motion for what soon became the Society for Women in Radiation Oncology, or SWRO, a group intended to facilitate connections and develop resources for women residents in our field. I am indescribably grateful for the support and encouragement in these pursuits from my fellow SWRO cofounders Anna Lee, Genevieve Maquilan, Kimberly Thomas, to our mentors Dr. Reshma Jagsi, Dr. Parul Barry, Dr. Joanne Dragun, as well as to ACRO and my fellow ACRO Resident Subcommittee members. We hope that through our efforts we can investigate and potentially mitigate whatever forces are behind the concerning findings in the graph above.