Efforts have been made to diversify the physician workforce, but those goals are still far from being reached. Here are some highlights from a recent study by Dr. Curtland Deville of Johns Hopkins University (published in JAMA Internal Medicine and analyzed in this MedPage Today article):
• In 2012, of the 16,835 med school graduates, 48.3% were women and 15.3% were minorities (7.4% were Hispanic and 6.8% were black).
• Of the 115,111 trainees in graduate medical education (GME) in 2012, 46.1% were women and 13.8% were minorities (including 7.5% Hispanic and 5.8% black).
• In that same year, there were 688,468 practicing physicians: 30.1% were women, and just 9.2% were minorities (5.2% Hispanic and 3.8% black).
• The concentration of female GME trainees varies according to specialty: In 2012, 82.4% of OB/GYN trainees and 74.5% of pediatric trainees were women, while in orthopedics, that number was only 13.8%. Other specialties with higher female representation include psychiatry (54.5%), pathology (54.6%), family medicine (55.2%), and dermatology (64.4%).
• The highs and lows for black trainees include OB/GYN (10.3%) and family medicine (7.5%) at the high end, and otolaryngology (2.2%) at the low end. The highest concentration of Hispanic trainees were in psychiatry (9.3%), family medicine (9%), and OB/GYN and pediatrics (each at 8.7%), with the lowest being in ophthalmology (3.6%).
So what can be done to boost these numbers? According to Dr. Deville, “First is the need to increase the available pipeline of diverse medical students. This is especially the case for Blacks, Hispanics, and other underrepresented groups. In parallel, is the need to ensure that female, black, and Hispanic medical students are exposed, prepared, and engaged to join all medical specialties. As the country becomes increasingly diverse, the physician workforce should mirror that diversity in all fields to ensure improved health equity and reduce health disparities.”