Declining racial and ethnic representation in clinical academic medicine: A longitudinal study of 16 US medical specialties

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Abstract

Objective To evaluate trends in racial, ethnic, and sex representation at US medical schools across 16 specialties: internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry, radiology, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, neurology, family practice, pathology, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and dermatology. Using a novel, Census-derived statistical measure of diversity, the S-score, we quantified the degree of underrepresentation for racial minority groups and female faculty by rank for assistant, associate, and full professors from 1990–2016. Methods This longitudinal study of faculty diversity uses data obtained from the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) Faculty Roster from US allopathic medical schools. The proportion of professors of racial minority groups and female faculty by rank was compared to the US population based on data from the US Census Bureau. The Roster includes data on 52,939 clinical medical faculty in 1990, and 129,545 in 2016, at the assistant professor level or higher. The primary measure used in this study was the S-score, a measure of representation based on the probability of the observed frequency of faculty from a racial/ethnic group and sex, given the racial and ethnic distribution of the US. Pearson correlations and 95% confidence intervals for S-score with time were used to measure trends. Results Blacks and Hispanics showed statistically significant trends (p<0.05) towards increasing underrepresentation in most specialties and are more underrepresented in 2016 than in 1990 across all ranks and specialties analyzed, except for Black females in obstetrics & gynecology. White females were also underrepresented in many specialties and in a subset of specialties trended toward greater underrepresentation. Conclusions Current efforts to improve faculty diversity are inadequate in generating an academic physician workforce that represents the diversity of the US. More aggressive measures for faculty recruitment, retention, and promotion are necessary to reach equity in academia and healthcare.

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Lett, L. A., Orji, W. U., & Sebro, R. (2018). Declining racial and ethnic representation in clinical academic medicine: A longitudinal study of 16 US medical specialties. PLoS ONE, 13(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207274

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