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#RADxx Moms

By the end of May, my 2-year old daughter will have accompanied me to eight radiology meetings. I’m fortunate that my husband has a job that allows him some flexibility to travel, and that he’s an amazing dad who loves going on adventures with his little girl. But when we’re speaking in consecutive sessions at the same meeting, it gets tricky. You may have witnessed one of our resulting baby handoffs at RSNA.

Traveling with your partner and children to a scientific meeting requires careful planning, sometimes up to 6 months or more in advance! I’ve attended meetings where older children have quietly occupied themselves in the front row while their parents have been on the podium as speakers or moderators, keeping a watchful eye. It reminded me of the days when my parents, both schoolteachers, took turns bringing me along when I didn’t have school, but they still had to work. So, if your kids are still young, or if both you and your partner are active in the meeting simultaneously, who watches the children?

Kudos to Camp RSNA and the new childcare option available at ACR 2018, both of which enable #radmamas and #radpapas to advance their careers with their families in tow. Some of our other radiology meetings also offer childcare and lactation facilities,  but this hasn’t always been the case. I asked an online group of women radiologists to share their experiences with childcare and, in particular, breastfeeding at radiology meetings.

More than one had been told to pump in the bathroom because a radiology meeting didn’t have lactation facilities. Others did so because the dedicated facilities were too far away from the meeting activities to make the twice- or thrice-daily trek practical.

A number of radiologist moms described challenges when pumping during the boards, with one even sharing that when she called to make arrangements to pump during a test, she was told not to breastfeed so she would not have to pump!

I myself attended a national radiology meeting where the “lactation room” turned out to be a poorly-maintained first-aid office that took 30 minutes to have someone unlock. Instead, I sat at the back of the lecture hall and pumped, unwillingly educating some trainees in attendance about the challenges of being a breastfeeding radiologist. By contrast, at SIIM 2016, the lactation room was a small, clean conference room with a door you could lock for privacy and even a working fridge.

There was a common theme to many of the responses I received from the online group: “I don’t go to meetings when nursing…I know this probably hurts my career”; “[it felt like] everyone disapproved of my recent motherhood”; “I skipped two meetings during the last year of residency; probably not the best for my career”.

There have been some notable improvements in lactation facilities available to radiology moms. Attendees at AIRP can now use a designated lactation room to pump and have access to a refrigerator while at the course. The ABR has also upgraded its lactation facilities, which can be used by test-takers who file for a disability to request extended time during their exams. While we as a specialty have improved in our efforts to support our breastfeeding radiology moms and radiology parents, there is more to be done.

The #RADxx initiative, sponsored by Ambra Health and championed by trailblazer #RADxx Dr. Geraldine McGinty, mentors and sponsors women in imaging informatics. At the upcoming SIIM annual meeting, Dr. Amy Kotsenas and I will host a roundtable on the challenges faced by women (and #radmamas) in this field, but broadly in radiology as a whole. I hope you will join us to brainstorm some suggestions as we look to the future of our specialty.

RADxx Roundtable Save the Date

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About Tessa Cook

Tessa S. Cook is a Diplomate of the American Board of Radiology, the American Board of Imaging Informatics, and the Certification Board of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography. She is currently a cardiovascular radiologist, imaging informaticist, innovator, and educator.

2 comments on “#RADxx Moms”

  • This sends such an important message to all fields. In today’s world with so much travel and an always on culture, we have to keep being creative to let people make the most of all aspects of their lives and build strong careers and families.

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