Decline in number of African-American male physicians called a crisis

The proportion of male African-American medical school graduates reached 57 percent in 1986, but the rate had dropped to 35 percent by 2015, according to the science journal Nature.

That decline stems from several factors, including a history of financial and racial barriers and the absence of significant government intervention into the discrepancy, a recent study published by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine states.

While the number of African-American students attending medical schools increased during the 30-year period, researchers suggest the uptick stems from the greater number of African-American women training to become physicians — the proportion of African-American male medical students declined by more than 20 percent during the same period, according to the study.

"This is a crisis that affects not only blacks, but also our national ability to have excellence in science and medicine," Cato T. Laurencin, MD, PhD, professor at the University of Connecticut in Farmington, said during a conference presentation cited in the study.

The decline in black male physicians also poses an issue in the types of care patients are given. The study authors said racial diversity among physicians helps to address health inequalities, as people from minority groups receive better care when their physicians come from similar backgrounds, according to the report.

"Having racial diversity leads to not just more doctors, but also better-prepared doctors who go into communities of color," Liliana Garces, an associate professor in the department of educational leadership and policy at the University of Texas at Austin, told Nature.

To access the Nature report, click here.

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