90% of department heads at Boston's 6 major teaching hospitals are white

Brigham and Women's Hospital decided to remove 31 portraits of former department chairs at the institution in June because the portraits — all of men — did not reflect the current makeup of residents, staff and the community surrounding the hospital. However, a recent Boston Globe survey found the lack of diversity is not just a historical issue at the Boston-based hospital.

Betsy Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women's parent organization, Brigham Health, said officials opted to move the 31 portraits out of the hospital's amphitheater and into conference rooms and lobbies across the facility because the portraits, which comprised 30 white men and one Chinese man, were not reflective of the inclusive atmosphere at Brigham and Women's today. She also noted the proposed change received much support from hospital staff.

However, a survey by The Boston Globe found a lack of diversity is very much present within the city's six major academic medical centers. Data provided by each of the hospitals indicated 80 percent of the 103 clinical department heads across the six facilities are men, while 90 percent of them are white, the report states.

O'Neil Britton, MD, an African-American physician and the CMO of Massachusetts General Hospital, told The Boston Globe change "will evolve more slowly than it should," partly because it involves providing black and Hispanic physicians with more opportunities and incentives to pursue a career in medicine. Minority physicians are also often repeatedly tapped to increase diversity on committees, leaving them less time to continue their research, which is vital in receiving promotions, according to the report.

Hospital executives from the various institutions told the publication they aim to hire more women and minorities to lead departments. For example, Boston Medical Center officials said they train search committees on how best to recruit minority physicians and work with hiring firms with strong diversity records.

Here is how each of the six teaching hospitals in Boston ranked in terms of the number of men and women who serve as department heads at their respective institutions:

  • Brigham and Women's — 13 men; 2 women
  • Massachusetts General — 15 men; 5 women
  • Boston Medical Center — 14 men; 4 women
  • Tufts Medical Center — 15 men; 5 women
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center — 10 men; 3 women
  • Boston Children's Hospital — 15 men; 2 women

To view a further breakdown of diversity among department heads, click here.

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