The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) recently contacted its members with a message of apology for the organization’s “contributions to structural racism in the specialty.”
“We write this statement to acknowledge our historical contribution to structural racism in radiology,” said the Board of Directors, “and apologize for RSNA’s actions that perpetuated systemic racism, both through omission and commission.”
The source of RSNA’s “sadness and remorse” is an article published in the February 2023 issue of RadioGraphics titled “How We Got Here: The Legacy of Anti-Black Discrimination in Radiology” (Goldberg et al). The commentary goes back to the 19th century to describe “radiology’s history and resultant structural racism,” with the objective of advising readers of what must be done to address it. “Multiple opportunities exist today for antiracism work to improve quality of care,” the abstract notes, “and to apply standards of social justice and health equity to the field of radiology.”
Improving access to services is a rational and worthwhile aim for all healthcare disciplines to undertake. However, the RSNA’s approach is to apply “antibias methodology” and “antiracist” workforce policies and training and an “antiracist workplace culture” to achieve it. To ensure readers understand the organization’s perspective on these and other terms, the article posts the RSNA’s definitions related to “healthcare disparities and discrimination.”
Among the apologies in their statement, the Board of Directors said the conclusions of Goldberg et al “likely do not represent a full accounting of RSNA’s harmful actions,” but demonstrate examples of “when our organization failed.” Predictably, the response from the society includes the implementation of two separate committees to address “equity” and to push an agenda based on racial identity politics.
RSNA makes its position known on its website. Its “commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion” states the RNSA acts to “combat inequity” and was the first professional association for radiology to require its leadership to complete unconscious bias training. Members are also encouraged to participate in bias training, as well as education offerings on additional topics such as “gender equity and disparities in imaging” and to demonstrate “allyship in everyday actions.”
RNSA’s message to its members suggests that they must accept that they are biased against their patients, even if they aren’t aware of it. Even worse, they are paying to belong to a professional organization that supports the tenets of anti-racism: Past discrimination must be met with present discrimination, and present discrimination must be met with future discrimination. Considering that radiologists are interpreting x-rays and images that do no show the patient’s skin color, isn’t it a bit bizarre to conclude that they are racists?
Said one practicing radiologist: “I will soon be cancelling my RSNA affiliation.”
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