She scores – again!
Sabrina Fitzgerald (Class of 2T2) was an inspiring player on the soccer field, and now she’s taking the radiology field by storm
After finishing high school in her hometown of London, Ontario, Sabrina Fitzgerald was awarded a full athletic scholarship to Canisius College in Buffalo, where she earned a BSc Chemistry degree. “I was an NCAA Division 1 athlete, which is the highest level of collegiate sports for women,” explains the stellar soccer player.
This spring, Fitzgerald received the 5T7 Memorial Dr. Janice Huffman MAA Award for demonstrating excellence in radiology during electives, related extracurricular activities, and research initiatives. And in the tough competition for radiology residency positions across Canada, she was awarded her first choice: the diagnostic radiology residency program at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. “I can’t wait to get started,” she says.
“In Canada, radiology residency programs are five years and combine both diagnostic and interventional radiology training. In other countries, like the United States, they’re separate programs,” Fitzgerald explains. “The therapeutic or interventional element of radiology, which includes procedures such as image-guided biopsies and placing stents, is an exciting area of innovation.
“I’ll be 31 when I graduate,” she continues. “It will be a long journey, but I’m grateful for it all.”
Fitzgerald will apply the same strategies to her residency that made her passage through medical school smooth sailing. “While medical school was demanding academically and further challenged by the pandemic, I found that remaining balanced – and balance for me means finding time for regular exercise and seeing family and friends – made medical school not only manageable but really enjoyable. The last four years have flown by.
“Soccer is a huge part of my identity,” she continues. “In medical school I put together an intramural soccer team, and now that medical school is over, I’m playing on a city-wide soccer team.”
When Fitzgerald started med school, she planned to go into gerontology, given her work experience as a personal support worker. “What drew me to radiology was the fantastic mentorship and seeing strong female leaders in the field. Getting to know my mentors opened the door to the radiology community. After getting involved, every step that I took I saw myself fitting in and able to utilize my unique skills to make a positive difference.”
One of Fitzgerald’s mentors, Dr. Charlotte Yong-Hing at the University of British Columbia, is an advocate for women in radiology. “After reading online about some of her work, I reached out to her, asking how I could get involved,” says Fitzgerald.
Since then, Yong-Hing and Fitzgerald have worked together on various research and advocacy initiatives. For example, during the Canadian Undergraduate Radiology Lecture Series, Yong-Hing encouraged Fitzgerald to speak about the lack of female radiologists in both practice and academia.
In her lecture, Fitzgerald pointed out that many of the specialties in Canada are male dominated. Only 15 of the 26 medical specialties and two of the 13 surgical specialties have achieved gender parity.
She expressed how she finds this curious because since 1995, more than half of medical students in Canada have been women. Today, about 63% of medical graduates are women. Within Canadian radiology practices, however, only 31.6% of radiologists are female.
Fitzgerald noted that radiology, in particular, has been identified as one of the medical specialties with the least gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. “There are demonstrated benefits of diversity in medicine,” says Fitzgerald, “including enhanced problem-solving, innovation, empathy, and patient outcomes.”
She feels that mentorship and an earlier exposure to radiology will help balance the gender scales by showing med students early in their training that radiology is a wonderful specialty for women. Her future aspirations include developing the first national mentorship initiative for women in radiology.
Fitzgerald also has a broader vision – to make radiology better for everyone in the field. She’s a lead author on a study about the ergonomics of radiology workstations. For this endeavour, the seven-member research team surveyed all radiologists in Canada, and 78.5% of the 191 radiologists who responded self-reported musculoskeletal discomfort from a non-ergonomic workstation.
“We identified gaps in knowledge,” reports Fitzgerald. “Poor workstation ergonomics can not only cause injuries, they can reduce productivity. This is an opportunity that we identified to improve radiologists’ awareness of the value of an ergonomic workstation.
“I am happy with how I am able to contribute to radiology. I really just love the field.”