Disparities in the Physician Workforce
On the tour, I’ve been personally been amazed by the number of students that comment that the Tour For Diversity is the first time that they have met a physician from a under-represented minority background. But truthfully, I shouldn’t be surprised, the data is there to back-up what students are saying..there is a great disparity in the number of physicians from minority backgrounds and despite the work of many organizations, the number of students from diverse backgrounds entering medicine and becoming physicians has been stagnant. You may be asking yourself why does this matter? Why is the Tour for Diversity in Medicine spending money and time working to eradicate this disparity. The answer is simple, the disparity in the number of physicians from minority backgrounds contributes to the “health disparities” that we see everyday in our communities.
A health disparity by definition is “an inequity that exists when members of certain population groups do not benefit from the same health status as other groups. “ While access is thought to be a contributor to this disparity along racial and ethnic lines, it has also been shown that the disparate number of physicians from diverse backgrounds also contributes to this. Studies have specifically shown that when there is racial concordance between physicians and patients that there is improved communication and potentially improved health outcomes. In addition, physicians from diverse backgrounds are more likely to work in underserved areas. What does this equate to in the end, we can improve health by improving diversity in the physician workforce. By increasing the breadth of cultural and life experience of the physician workforce we will be better prepared to deal with the challenges of our ever-diversifying American community. And we want you to be part of that, by investing in you, the Tour for Diversity in Medicine is not only to help individual students, but the health of our country by helping to create a more diverse and culturally competent workforce.
By: Brandi Freeman, MD