We live in a culture that thrives and flourishes with diversity. Think about a diverse workplace like a work of art. Imagine the hospital is the canvas, and all the physicians, nurses, patients, visitors, and staff are the paint. Having more colors makes the canvas come alive and the more variation, the more vibrant, beautiful and interesting it becomes.
As minorities account for more and more of our population and begin to be represented in other fields of work, it’s imperative that we address the lack of multi-cultural representation in the practice. If we’re not representing the population, do you think we really are able to represent our patients? Some call it “racial fatigue.” Diversity in medicine is an issue.
Less than 9% of physicians identify as any race besides Caucasian (this includes African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, or Latinos. Black Americans only make up 4% of the current physician workforce according to AAMC.
Physician Demographics by Race
1.1% Black or African American
4.4% Hispanic or Latino
.4% American Indian or Alaska Native
Medical School Graduates by Race & Gender (2012)
1. White men 6,763
2. White women 5,533
3. Asian women 2,434
4. Asian men 2,427
5. Black/African-American women 880
6. Black/African-American men 517
7. Hispanic/Latino men 766
The homogeneous image of physicians is something that needs to be broken.
The problem with having underrepresented minorities in a certain profession, especially one as influential as healthcare, is that it causes an unconscious bias that Americans aren’t benefiting from in the least. It won’t be until we can mirror the image of the patients that doctors will be able to build those positive relationships, increase trust, and gain satisfaction. Having a diverse range of backgrounds of practicing staff offers a wider scope of experiences, skills and point of views.
Minority patients are more likely to feel uncomfortable or report a bad experience than whites. Minority patients that suffer from communication barriers don’t necessarily feel “at-home” among all Caucasian healthcare professionals.
Addressing the Problem
Promoting the education of minorities, women, disabled, veterans, and LGBT is essential to building the successful future face to healthcare. In addition to creating more positive practice, breaking down the unconscious bias and making patients feel more at ease the access to more of these individuals in the physician practice will also help with the national staffing shortage.
“When you try to increase diversity in medical education and residency programs, I think people get confused [because] they assume this is just another affirmative action thing,” Dr. McDade chair of the AMA Council on Medical Education and deputy provost for research and minority issues at the University of Chicago, said. “But it’s much more than that. There’s actually a practical reason for increasing diversity of the student population: Evidence suggests that minority physicians disproportionately care for minority populations. So when we talk about diversity in medical schools, we’re actually talking about communities and lives that are at risk.”
Until we are able to get more diverse student bodies in our medical programs, we aren’t going to see the next generation anything but monochome.