Health Day reporter
TUESDAY, July 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) – The American medical field is less dominated by white men than before, but there are still few black and Hispanic doctors, dentists and pharmacists, according to a new study.
The study, which looked at trends over the past 20 years, found that white men no longer make up the majority of doctors and surgeons in the United States.
In 2019, they made up about 44% of these positions nationwide, up from 54% in 2000. This was due to an increase in the number of women entering these fields, especially white and Asian women.
In contrast, there have been only small increases in the percentages of black and Hispanic female doctors, and almost no change for black and Hispanic men.
Meanwhile, similar trends have been seen in dentistry and pharmacy, two other lucrative areas of healthcare.
Minority representation has increased more widely in jobs such as nursing, physiotherapy, and home health care. But these are relatively lower paying professions, the researchers pointed out.
What’s more, the current disparities between drugs are also important for patients, said study co-author Dr Dan Ly of the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Physicians who are underrepresented minorities, such as black and Hispanic physicians, are more likely to practice in areas designated by the federal government as medically underserved or experiencing a shortage of health care professions than white physicians.” , Ly said.
Likewise, he added, these doctors tend to care for more underserved people, including minorities and poorer, sicker and uninsured patients.
There is also some evidence that patients do better when they see a doctor from a similar background.
For example, Ly said, studies show that black patients are more likely to receive preventative care, such as flu shots and diabetes screenings, when they see a black doctor.
Unfortunately, the lack of progress in increasing minority representation among physicians came as no surprise, according to Ly. Previous studies have indicated this.
What’s new about these findings, he said, is that dentistry and pharmacy have the same patterns, with potentially the same impact on patient care.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if there are health benefits to seeing a pharmacist or dentist who looks like you and can better understand you or your experience, just like there is in medicine,” Ly said.
The results, published online July 15 in JAMA network open, are based on two United States census surveys where Americans reported their race, ethnicity, and occupation.
Between 2000 and 2019, a growing number of women became doctors, making up about a third of the healthcare workforce from 2015 to 2019. White and Asian women both saw gains of three percentage points.
Among black and Hispanic women, there have been only small increases, and they have each accounted for about 2.5% of American doctors in recent years. Meanwhile, there was virtually no change among Hispanic and black men, who made up 4% and 2.5% of all physicians, respectively, in 2019.
The problem of under-representation has long been recognized, according to Norma Poll-Hunter, senior director of workforce diversity for the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Since 2009, American medical schools have been required to have diversity-focused programs. Schools across the United States are now working with local colleges, high schools, and even elementary schools to spark interest in science, prepare students academically, and help with practical things like applying to college. medicine, Poll-Hunter said.
But it’s clear more steps are needed, and the low representation of black men in the field is of particular concern, said Poll-Hunter, who was not involved in the new study.
So the focus is now on helping individual students towards more “systems change,” Poll-Hunter said.
“There is now a better appreciation of the impact of systemic racism, including in medicine,” she said.
As an example, Poll-Hunter said medical schools are encouraged to rely less on students’ results on the medical school admission test and to “look more at the individual as a whole” when examining the medical school admissions test. making admission decisions.
“These are the types of things we need to really move the dial,” Poll-Hunter said.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has more on racism and health.
SOURCES: Dan Ly, MD, PhD, MPP, assistant professor, research in general internal medicine and health services, University of California, Los Angeles; Norma Poll-Hunter, PhD, Senior Director, Workforce Diversity, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC; JAMA network open, July 15, 2021, online
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