Diversity in Medicine

 In Uncategorized, Voices of Diversity

“Unless the current trend is reversed, our country will see a growing ethnic and racial disconnect between those who receive care and those who provide that care.”

— US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD (1)

The arguments for racial and ethnic diversity in the health care workforce are numerous and compelling. (2)  As the disparities in health care access and utilization remain a focus of federal and state legislation, investment in the future minority physicians and dentists is paramount to the ability of this nation to address these concerns.As a leader in the academic medical community, the Association of American Medical Colleges lists as one of its strategic priorities its commitment to increase diversity in medicine by focusing on “diversifying the applicant pool and encouraging more African Americans, Latinos/as, and Native Americans to consider medicine as a career through career fairs, summer enrichment programs, and online resources.” (3)  These specific racial and ethnic groups are considered underrepresented in medicine, and are otherwise called “underrepresented minorities” or URMs. Highlighted in its October 2011 press release, the total number of U.S. medical school applicants and enrollees from most major racial and ethnic groups did increase in 2011.  After a slight decrease (0.2 percent) in 2010, Black/African American applicants increased by 4.8 percent while enrollees increased 1.9 percent.  Hispanic/Latino applicants increased by 5.8 percent and enrollees increased 6.1 percent. (4)  However, these numbers continue to lag behind the numbers of these same racial and ethnic groups in the total U.S. population – hence, the concept of underrepresentation in medicine.  As of October 2010, the AAMC highlights the following statistics, based on students’ responses:  of the 79,070 students currently enrolled in U.S. medical schools, 5,548 (7%) identify as African-American/Black, 6508 (8%) as Hispanic/Latino, and 890 (1%) as American Indian/Alaskan native/Native Hawaiian. (5)  Proactive opportunities like those of the AAMC and TDM will assist in the growth of the numbers of URMs.

(1) Schneider, C. “Surgeon general calls for more minorities in medicine.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 3, 2009.  Last accessed at www.ajc.com on December 17, 2011
(2) Grumbach and Mendoza.  “Disparities In Human Resources: Addressing The Lack Of Diversity In The Health Professions.”  Health Affairs, March 2008, vol. 27, no. 2 (2008), pages 413-422.
(3) AAMC.  “Diversity Policy and Programs.” https://www.aamc.org/download/266998/data/dppbriefingbook2011-whoweare-whatwedo-whereweregoing2ndedition.pdf  Last accessed December 17 2011.
(4) AAMC.  “Number of First-Time Medical School Applicants Reaches New High: Medicine Continues to Attract Diverse, Robust Pool of Applicants.” https://www.aamc.org/newsroom/newsreleases/2011/264074/111024.html  Last accessed December 17 2011.
(5) AAMC: Total Enrollment by U.S. Medical School and Race and Ethnicity, 2010, https://www.aamc.org/download/160146/data/table31-new-enrll-raceeth-sch-2010-web.pdf  Last accessed December 17 2011.

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