By A. Nina Watson, MD
As a female radiologist, I’ve gotten accustomed to the surprised looks, and occasional raised eyebrows I sometimes receive when I tell people I’m a physician. While women physicians are on the frontlines of medical breakthroughs and patient care, we are still underrepresented in radiology. A recent study revealed that female trainees make up just 26% of U.S. radiology residents, a number that has remained unchanged for the past decade.1 No wonder the surprised looks.
So, when Women’s History Month popped up on my calendar, I started thinking about the pioneering women in medicine who paved the way for me. I pondered over the life story of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who became the first black female physician in 1864. I thought about Dr. Alice Ettinger, a German-born radiologist who in 1932 introduced spot-film imaging to the U.S. I recalled learning about Dr. Lucy Frank Squire, who in 1940 became the first female resident in Massachusetts General Hospital’s radiology program — after the pathology department rejected her for being a woman. I reminisced about the conversations I had in the office of Dr. Kate Aseme, a Nigerian-born woman who in 1977 became the first female general surgeon in Mississippi and transformed trauma care.
These and other women who blazed trails – overcoming obstacles along the way – have encouraged me to blaze my own. This trail took me from a little girl in southern Mississippi with big dreams to Yale University School of Medicine, to residency training at the University of Mississippi and Harlem Hospital Center, and to the fulfilling career I have today. I wouldn’t be here without these women getting there first. They are my superstars. Their resilience, determination, and dedication have fueled my passion for innovating patient care and improving patients’ lives, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Seeing women in the role of physician, department chair, and innovator illuminated what was possible and inspired me to break through barriers. In celebration of Women’s History Month, I hope to inspire the next generation of barrier-breaking women as well.
A board-certified diagnostic radiologist and physician entrepreneur, founder, and owner of Modern Radiology and Watson Medical Consulting, Dr. Watson is a passionate advocate for health, wellness, and fitness. As a consultant, speaker, and expert media source, she shares her passion with a diverse range of professionals and organizations seeking to integrate health and wellness into their lifestyles and cultures. Dr. Watson is a practicing breast radiologist working in underserved areas throughout the country, engaged in identifying and eliminating disparities in breast cancer screening and diagnosis.
- Adham S, Rybicki FJ, Mahoney MC, Yong-Hing CJ, Khosa F. Analysis of gender disparity in US and Canadian radiology residency programs. Curr Probl Diagn Radiol. Available online March 8, 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1067/j.cpradiol.2021.03.002.