Women, minorities still needed in medicine

Researchers say not enough women and minorities are entering medicine, nor are they entering a wide enough variety of medical specialties, which could be exacerbating health disparities, according to Reuters.

"Minority physicians continue to provide the majority of care for underserved and non-English speaking populations," one of the researchers, Curtiland Deville, MD, of Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, told Reuters in an email.

Their work highlighted the following underrepresentation in medical schools and medical specialties.

  • In 2012, of 16,835 medical school graduates, 48 percent were women, 7 percent were Hispanic and 7 percent were black.
  • Ranks of practicing physicians at that time were less diverse: 30 percent were women, 5 percent were Hispanic and 4 percent were black.
  • Of 115,111 trainees in postgraduate medical education in 2012, 46 percent were women, 8 percent were Hispanic and 6 percent were black.
  • In OB/GYN, 82 percent of trainees were women, 10.3 percent were black and 8.7 percent were Hispanic.

The data shows certain fields attracted women and minority groups, while others did not. For example, 75 percent of pediatric trainees were women in 2012, compared to 14 percent of orthopedics trainees, according to the report.

Reuters noted Hispanic trainees were prevalent in psychiatry, family medicine, OB/GYN and pediatrics, but especially lacking in ophthalmology. Black trainees often chose family medicine and OB/GYN, but few were in otolaryngology programs.

To help address these disparities, medical schools have been working to increase the diversity of their students. The researchers say this is the first step, but it does not necessarily ensure all specialties will be diverse, according to the report.

In an interview with Reuters,Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, pointed to the ill-distribution of women trainees. "Is that based on choice or are they in some way being relegated to those particular fields, or not being given advice to go into orthopedics or surgery specialties. Is there gender bias at play?"

The next step is making sure hospitals and medical schools are exposing students to all fields of medicine and making specialties feel as inclusive as possible, according to report.

 

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