June 22, 2022

In The News: Proportion of Black, Hispanic Physicians Do Not Reflect US Population

Healio has shared findings on underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic physicians and medical students compared to their presence in the greater U.S. population. The study authors relay that diversity among health care professionals promotes better access, quality and outcomes for an increasingly diverse population.

Researchers used data from the Census Bureau and the Association of American Medical Colleges to identify current physicians and medical students, and racial demographics of the country. They then looked at what the corresponding numbers of Black and Hispanic physicians would be if those numbers accurately reflected the national population.

Using those criteria, they estimated 127,490 Black physicians and 174,307 Hispanic physicians should be caring for patients. The actual representation was staggering. They found only 46,133 Black and 60,549 Hispanic physicians, or deficits of 81,358 Black and 113,758 Hispanic physicians.

The researchers also provided estimates on the effort necessary to correct the shortfall. It would take 66 years of sustained doubling in the number of Black medical students and 92 years of sustained doubling in the number of Hispanic medical students to eliminate the disparity. The researchers recommend the creation and expansion of medical schools that prioritize underrepresented in medicine students to help shorten those time frames, as well as address the overall physician shortage.

PIDS member Anthony Flores (head of the IDA&E Task Force) commented on the story, “Despite efforts at multiple levels we have not seen the desired gains in workforce diversity. The data are sobering and support a multifaceted approach to improving diversity in the physician workforce including pediatric infectious diseases. All options should be on the table as we continue to develop innovative programs and partnerships to address physician diversity, including the work done by the PIDS IDA&E Task Force.”

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