Proportion of Black, Hispanic physicians do not reflect US population
Black and Hispanic medical students and physicians are considerably underrepresented in the United States compared with the national population, according to findings published in JAMA Network Open.
“According to the AMA, racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals promotes better access to health care, improves health care quality for underserved populations, and better meets the health care needs of our increasingly diverse population,” Hector Mora, MD, a resident physician at Penn Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “If the goal is to achieve a diverse and representative physician workforce within our lifetimes, a sustained and multifaceted approach must be implemented that will address both the size of the underrepresented medical school applicant pool as well as the number of underrepresented medical students and postgraduate trainees.”
In a cross-sectional study, Mora and colleagues compared the demographics of the U.S. population to that of the physician workforce from 2010 to 2015. They used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The researchers identified 20,349 allopathic medical students and 961,098 practicing physicians in 2015. Of the medical students, 1,231 were Hispanic and 1,228 were Black. Also, 60,549 of the physicians were Hispanic and 46,133 were Black.
Mora and colleagues estimated that these groups should have amassed to 174,307 Hispanic physicians and 127,490 Black physicians based on the national population. Representation in 2015 amounted to a deficit of 113,758 Hispanic physicians and 81,358 Black physicians.
There were 196 fewer Hispanic physicians and 191 fewer Black physicians for every 100,000 Hispanic and Black people in the U.S. Mora and colleagues estimated that it would take 92 years of sustained doubling in the number of Hispanic medical students in 2015 to correct the deficit of Hispanic physicians. Moreover, it would take an estimated 66 years of sustained doubling in Black medical students to correct the deficit of Black physicians.
Given the projected physician shortage, “the creation and expansion of medical schools that prioritize the education of Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented students would not only decrease the overall physician shortage, but also shorten the time required to attain a representative physician workforce and help mitigate the societal harm inflicted by decades of structural racism,” Mora and colleagues wrote.