Increasingly, physicians are choosing to practice in diverse settings. A recent study found that physicians of traditionally underrepresented groups are more likely to care for minority patients, practice in physician shortage areas, and treat patients with chronic illnesses or multiple diagnoses. And with the nation’s population set to increase to 325 million by 2020, that number is projected to rise to 117 million. In fact, historically underrepresented groups make up nearly one-third of all physicians in the United States.
Recent studies have shown that there is an underrepresentation of women in medical specialty societies. The results suggest that addressing underrepresentation of women in medicine may have beneficial effects for individual and institutional outcomes. In fact, a study conducted by the Association of Academic Physiatrists examined the gender composition of physicians awarded this honor. The study concluded that a greater representation of women in medical specialty societies will improve health outcomes and decrease health disparities.
Despite this fact, the number of women in medical school continues to rise. The percentage of Black medical students has doubled in the last decade, and more women are now enrolled than 40 years ago. Similarly, the representation of BIPOCs and Black men in medical school is unchanged since 1980. Moreover, the percentage of immigrants is much higher than that of U.S. citizens, with physicians from China and India accounting for the largest proportions.
The emergence of women in medical school has helped address the gender pay gap. Today, women make up 48% of medical school graduates. Yet, they make up only 34% of physicians in the U.S. However, this disparity does not translate to gender parity in the medical leadership. Women comprise 18% of hospital CEOs and 16% of all department chairs and deans. Moreover, women are still underrepresented in senior authorship and Editors-In-Chief positions in prestigious medical journals.
In addition to increasing the representation of women in medicine, other factors may also contribute to this trend. Minority groups face challenges in accessing quality education. Moreover, women are underrepresented in senior management roles, where their representation is not even close to what they should be. In addition to underrepresentation, the absence of diversity in senior management positions is an indicator of unethical practices and unfair treatment of minority physicians and patients.
Moreover, the increasing number of minorities in the United States poses additional challenges for healthcare organizations. The presence of more minority patients is not only challenging for healthcare providers, but also for patients. Healthcare organizations should adapt to this changing demographic to improve patient satisfaction. It is important for patients to connect with their physician, because cultural sensitivity and language similarity can enhance patient satisfaction. This is especially important in an industry where lives are at stake.
Despite the many achievements made by racial and ethnic minorities in the medical profession, there is still a long way to go before diversity in the medical workforce is representative of the general population. Minority physicians now comprise about six percent of practicing physicians, but minority faculty make up only four percent of U.S. medical school faculty. This is a significant underrepresentation in the medical field.
In 1966, an African American man, Levi Watkins, was denied admission to the University of Alabama School of Medicine despite his exceptional academic credentials at Tennessee State University. The decision came 12 years after the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of students was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. In response, Watkins earned his medical degree at Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine. He later became the first African American to graduate from a top-ranked medical school.
The importance of diversity in medicine cannot be overstated. Achieving that goal requires addressing the structural challenges facing the medical community. For example, historically, medical schools have been overwhelmingly white. Minority students represent just four percent of the student population. Minority faculty and students have a much lower representation in medical society and hospital staff. The problem is more complicated than this. It is time to move forward with plans to diversify medicine and make it more representative of society.
A diverse workforce is a vital component of high-quality care. Adding diverse doctors to the healthcare workforce improves patient outcomes and inspires the next generation of medical professionals. The increasing number of minority doctors in the healthcare field also re-establishes trust between patients and the healthcare system. And despite the many challenges faced by minority physicians, history shows that diversity is the future of medicine.
Today, patients speak many languages. It is imperative that physicians understand these differences in order to provide quality care. Patients’ ethnic and religious backgrounds also affect the quality of care. Therefore, it is essential to recruit physicians with diverse backgrounds and cultures. The medical community must recognize that cultural competency and behavioral determinants of health are important factors in improving health outcomes. For the future of medicine, we must ensure that our medical workforce reflects a diverse population.
The advancement of healthcare can greatly benefit from diversity training. Minorities can help create barriers to medical care, ranging from culture to ethnicity. This can be especially dangerous in the healthcare industry, where lives are often on the line. By providing diverse medical care, these minorities can contribute to better patient outcomes and inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals. Furthermore, representation of these groups has shown to improve the quality of care, which will benefit the patient population as a whole.
The University of California-Irvine College of Medicine, for example, has an initiative to improve Latino health in the state. They are recruiting talented Latino students with good Spanish language skills. They also consider race neutral variables, such as community service. This initiative is likely to increase the diversity of applicant pools and entering classes. It is not enough to simply enact diversity policies. The current medical school admissions process requires diverse candidates to complete their prerequisites and meet the minimum requirements.
The underrepresentation of minority groups in the medical field was widely recognized during the middle century. As a result, the Federal Comprehensive Health Manpower Training Act was passed in 1971, articulating a new national policy to develop a physician workforce from all segments of society. These efforts were met with promising early results. Minority enrollment rates rose from 3 percent to 8 percent nationwide within a decade.
As a result, a recent ban on affirmative action and persistent inequities in educational opportunity have created challenges for health professions schools in America. Nonetheless, increasing the diversity of the health workforce is an obvious strategy to improve health. It is critical for these institutions to create mission statements that promote diversity and encourage students to pursue it. It is also important to create an admissions process that is tailored to the characteristics of different groups.
Increasing diversity in healthcare is a crucial step to ensure that our country’s health care system is truly representative. Disparities in healthcare among racial and ethnic groups create moral dilemmas for society and undermine efforts to improve our nation’s health and reduce escalating healthcare costs. Additionally, the growing patient population of people of color requires a diverse workforce. In fact, recent studies have shown that doctors who are from a diverse background are more likely to treat patients of color.
A recent survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges revealed that only a minority of physicians identify as Hispanic or Black. Despite these figures, Hispanics and Black people make up about one-third of the U.S. population. Furthermore, nearly one-quarter of physicians are immigrants, and the largest groups are doctors from India and China. Clearly, systemic bias exists in the medical field, and increasing diversity is critical to achieving that goal.
While the United States is a country that celebrates diversity, it has yet to make the necessary investments in recruiting and retaining minority physicians. Take New York City for example. The city is a grand mosaic of races, religions, national origin, and sexual orientation. More than two-thirds of the city’s population is minority, and this is not a disproportionately white community.
Minority medical students were rare even at historically black medical schools. The Flexner Report closed the majority of Black medical schools, severely limiting the number of Black physicians. Nevertheless, today’s medical school admissions statistics show that there are more diverse students than ever. Minority medical students now make up nearly a quarter of the medical school population. So, it’s no surprise that history shows diversity is the future of medicine.
To ensure that future physician workforces are as diverse as possible, the medical profession has to actively embrace diversity. Despite the challenges presented by changing demographics, AAMC data suggests that diversity is the future of medicine. Moreover, affirmative action can be beneficial in addressing medical school admissions disparities. By increasing minority representation, it can lead to better health outcomes and improved physician quality. The AAMC has made this possible with its AAMC guidelines.