The study was published online Aug. 24 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
In a commentary published with the paper, Dr. Laura E. Riley of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston says this study calls attention “yet again to the continued underrepresentation of women and minority groups in medicine.”
“Ensuring a diverse physician workforce will require the continuing attention of medical school leadership and health care systems, and interventions to provide opportunities for diverse physicians to join the leadership ranks. Increasing physician diversity is yet another opportunity to improve the quality of care for all of our patients, particularly the most disadvantaged and those with a disproportionate burden of disease,” Dr. Riley writes.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), said this is “an important paper primarily because, in my mind, it calls to question if we need to be doing more research to figure out why women remain predominantly in three specialties, family medicine, pediatrics and OBGYN. Is that based on choice or are they in some way being relegated to those particular fields, or not being given advice to go into orthopedics or surgery specialties. Is there gender bias at play?”
Nivet said the study also confirms that minorities are more likely to go into primary care. “We’ve had this rationale of wanting minorities to go into primary care and go and serve the underserved. But I think we need to appreciate the fact that we also need more minority surgeons and more minority psychiatrists and dermatologists, etc. Again, is there steering going on or is it choice?”
“We need to be sure that all students that have the talent, capacity and desire to go into medicine have the opportunity to do so because we need them for sure,” Nivet said.
He added, “I do think there is a role for hospitals and medical schools to make sure that their environments are as inclusive as possible. A minority or a woman shouldn’t look at a particular field like orthopedics and say, ‘Well, that’s not for me.’ There should be training that’s happening for the graduate medical education leaders (and) for the faculty members of institutions to make sure that they are exposing all students to different opportunities so they can make the right choice for themselves.”