A call for investment in education of US minorities in the 21st century

  • Rivera-Nieves J
  • Abreu M
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The most recent census data demonstrates that the population of the US is changing from one that is predominantly white, to one much more racially and ethnically diverse.1 Some have speculated that the change in demographics played a large role in the last presidential election.2 The 2 most populous states—California and Texas—lead the way, with minorities (which includes Asian American, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, or American Indian and Alaska Native) being the majority (http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf). This is also the case in Washington, DC, Hawaii, and New Mexico. Heralding the future, in 6 additional states (Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Arizona, and Nevada) minority children already outnumber white children. Thus, within a generation, the racial and ethnic composition of those who will call themselves “Americans” will be quite different.3 Furthermore, US census data suggests that by 2050 >50% of Americans will be non-white (Figure 1). Those simple demographic facts serve as a compelling argument to address how best to enhance diversity in medicine in general, and in gastroenterology in particular. The scope of the problem in 2013 is highlighted by the fact that Latinos comprise approximately 15% of the US population, blacks 12%, Asian 4%, and 3% other minorities. By contrast, only 7% of practicing physicians are minorities.4 In the past, blacks, Mexican- Americans, Native Americans (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians), and mainland Puerto Ricans were considered underrepresented minorities (URMs). Although these groups continue to be URMs, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has moved away from identifying specific minorities to defining underrepresented in medicine as those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population (https://www.aamc.org/ download/54278/data/urm.pdf). Among academic physicians, 3% are black and 4% Hispanic. Similarly, in a recent study 4% black R01-applicants and R01-funded investigators were recent immigrants. These statistics highlight the limited pool of minority mentors.

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  • Jesús Rivera-Nieves

  • María T. Abreu

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