GEMS programme launches to promote diversity in IR specialty

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diversityThe Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) announced the establishment of the Grants for Education of Medical Students (GEMS) programme at its 2019 annual scientific meeting (23–28 March, Austin, USA). Alan H Matsumoto, former SIR president, introduced the programme during his acceptance speech for the SIR Gold Medal Award (for which he was one of three recipients). The GEMS programme aims to support diversity within interventional radiology (IR) by providing travel grants for medical students participating in an IR clerkship outside of their home institution.

“With IR now being recognised as its own medical specialty, we have a wonderful opportunity to engage medical students, whilst also focusing on the diversity within our specialty,” Matsumoto said. “We all know that once medical students are exposed to IR, they often fall in love with it. So it is really about giving them a chance to see and experience how IR really is early enough in their career so they can make the appropriate choice.

“The purpose of the GEMS programme is to grow the diversity in IR by providing a travel grant to medical students who identify as either being from a gender, racial, or ethnic group underrepresented in IR, or who identify as LGBTQ, and who are seeking to be first generation physicians in their families, as well as students from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background, regardless of their gender or ethnicity, by providing them a travel grant as a way to encourage them to explore the specialty of IR as a career. Up to 10 US$15,000 travel grants per year will be awarded to medical students who have applied to participate in the GEMS programme, to participate in a four week IR clerkship outside of their home institution.”

The funding for the GEMS programme comes through donations from the Matsumoto family, the SIR Foundation, Boston Scientific, Cook Medical, Penumbra, Siemens Healthineers, and WO Gore.

On the SIR Foundation’s website, the society state: “The clerkships to which the students are applying must devote at least 50% and up to 100% time to IR, with any remaining time devoted to diagnostic radiology (DR), nuclear medicine or a subspecialty area within DR. The clerkship must be at least four weeks in duration.”

For IR programmes interested in participating, the SIR Foundation has said that it will “identify IR programmes from around the country” who are committed to assisting the eligible groups of medical students “to gain exposure to the field of IR” and will provide this listing on the SIR Foundation website.

In his announcement speech, Matsumoto elaborated on the programme’s purpose: “The intent of the programme is to eliminate any financial barrier that might have prevented a medical student from exploring an IR clerkship. The rationale for encouraging students to participate in an IR clerkship different from their home institution is to provide them with the opportunity to be exposed to a different institution in an IR programme, to have a more personalised learning experience about the specialty of IR, to become more comfortable in a new environment, as a prelude to the residency application and interviewing process, and to potentially develop an early mentoring relationship in IR and broaden their professional network.

“Not only does the programme offer opportunities for medical students, but hopefully will also encourage IR training programmes to contribute to the promotion of diversity in our specialty.”

The GEMS programme began accepting applications from 1 April 2019.

Matsumoto concluded: “It is really the goal and sincere hope of my family, Boston Scientific, Cook Medical, Penumbra, Siemanns Healthineers, Gore, the SIR and the SIR Foundation that the GEMS programme will help to expand the diversity of thought, and personnel of our specialty, so we may better serve the growing diversity of patients for whom we provide care.”

This sentiment was echoed by then SIR president Victoria Marx (Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA), who commented: “SIR and SIR Foundation are incredibly grateful to Dr Matsumoto, his family and our inaugural industry sponsors—Boston Scientific, Penumbra, Siemens Healthineers, Gore and Cook—for supporting this important initiative to engage diverse groups of medical students in interventional radiology.”

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