Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Racial Diversity and Medicine
If you are Black, Hispanic or Native American, I bet you have noticed something. There are no doctors of your race to treat you. Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans make up 26 percent of the U.S. population, but only 6 % of practicing physicians come from these minorities. Underrepresented minorities have worse health status in many dimensions compared with the white population.
My work takes me to large metropolitan areas as well as hospitals and communities in more rural areas, and I am always struck by the lack of physicians of color when I see patients of every color in hospitals and clinics.
The Council on Graduate Medical Education says that "the racial/ethnic composition of the physician population should reflect the overall population's diversity". Since 1980, the percentage of U.S. medical graduates who are Asian American has risen 5 fold, but the underrepresented minority has remained flat.
Admission to medical school is dependent upon getting students interested and ready while they are undergraduates or even in high school. I believe we need a focused effort to identify underserved students and nurture them with financial support and mentoring. We need to make minority enrollment in medicine a priority. The past 25 years have shown us it will not happen without reaching out.
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