Black, Hispanic, and American Indian students remain underrepresented in medical schools, despite increasing efforts to create a diverse physician workforce, according to a new study by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Recent studies have shown a steady increase in the enrollment of nonwhite medical students over the past decade. While those numbers are promising, they don’t tell the full story. We still have a long way to go before our physician workforce mirrors the population of patients who they serve,” said co-senior author Dr. Jaya Aysola, assistant dean of the Office of Inclusion and Diversity at the University of Pennsylvania and executive director of the Penn Medicine Center for Health Equity Advancement.
Researchers found that between 2002 and 2017, the actual number of minority students in medical schools increased, but the rate of increase was slower than that of age-matched members of those minorities in the U.S. population.
“Past research has shown that the medical workforce has indeed become more diverse, but it doesn’t account for how much the country is diversifying as a whole. If the Hispanic population grows by 25 percent and the Hispanic medical student population grows at the same rate, you can’t directly attribute that growth to new guidelines,” explained lead author Lanair Amaad Lett, an MD-PhD student and associate fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.
The authors note that a lack of diverse applicants is far from the only contributing factor to achieving a workforce that reflects the U.S. population. Aysola added that there also needs to be a concerted effort to ensure structural inequities and biases are addressed at the institutional level.