More Recruiting of Underrepresented Minorities Needed at U.S. Medical Schools, Study Says

Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:46pm EST

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Despite initiatives, level of diversity among faculty, practitioners still
remains markedly low when compared with U.S. population, U-M researchers say

ANN ARBOR, Mich.,  Jan. 28  /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The number of
underrepresented minorities among U.S. medical school faculty remains low,
even as the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse.

And the level of underrepresented minorities currently being trained in
medicine is unlikely to reverse those trends, according to a U-M analysis and
commentary published this month in the journal  Gastroenterology.

Underrepresented minorities that were primarily addressed include Black or
African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians, Alaskan or Hawaiian
natives and other Pacific Islanders.

"The low representation and the stagnation of the numbers of Black and
Hispanic faculty in U.S. medical schools is troubling," said  Juanita
Merchant, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the departments of  Internal Medicine     
and Molecular & Integrative Physiology at the  University of Michigan.

"We need to plug the leaky pipeline that allows underrepresented minorities to
escape before they can complete the process that allows them to go on to
becoming medical or research faculty," says Merchant, who co-authored the
study with  M. Bishr Omary, Ph.D., M.D., chair of the  Department of Molecular
& Integrative Physiology.

The underrepresented minority categories mentioned above only comprise about 7
percent of practicing physicians in the U.S., but those populations make up
about 27 percent of the U.S. population. Similarly, in 2008, only 7.3% of all
medical school faculty are underrepresented minorities.

A national effort led by the Association of American Medical Colleges sought
to enroll 3,000 underrepresented minorities annually into U.S. medical schools
by the year 2000. As of 2007, the number of admitted underrepresented
minorities in medical schools was only 2,500. Of those, 6.4 percent were
black, 7.2 percent were Hispanic and 0.5 percent were American Indians,
Alaskan or Hawaiian natives and other Pacific Islanders.

"Academic medical faculty who are training the next generation of physicians
as well as those delivering health care should reflect the diverse populations
they will be serving," Merchant says.

Another important point is that the percentage of male faculty outnumber
female faculty dramatically. The percent of female faculty also declines from
the instructor to professor rank, Merchant says.

"We have a huge number of women at the entry level, who just don't make it up
the ladder," Merchant says.

Some of this is a preparation problem, Merchant says, and students in
underrepresented communities need to be encouraged to study science and pursue
biomedical fields. Once that pool has increased, strategies must be developed
to retain trainees and potential faculty members.

"We know that Black physicians care for significantly more Black patients, and
the same holds true for Hispanic physicians," Merchant says. "We also know
that minority populations may be more likely to have more serious health care
problems, either because they delay care because of financial constraints or
access to providers.

"So enhancing the pool of underrepresented minorities among faculty and
physicians will likely help alleviate some of the disparities in the quality
of care among those populations. Medical schools and government officials need
to make this a priority."

The article by Merchant and Omary provides detailed data from a variety of
sources and also includes specific recommendations to both institutions and
the underrepresented minorities themselves on how to reverse the current

"We made a strong effort not only to highlight the problem but to also
highlight specific recommendations that were assembled after consultation with
several thought leaders nationally and locally," Omary says.

SOURCE   University of Michigan  Health System

Mary F. Masson,, or Margarita Bauza-Wagerson,, both of University of Michigan Health System,

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