By Alicia Ault, Writer
“Ly said he took on this research in part because previous studies have shown that Black patients are more likely to seek preventive care from Black doctors.”
— Dan Ly, MD, PhD, MPP, Assistant Professor Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
The percentage of physicians in the United States who are Black has increased only 4% in the past 120 years, and the number of Black male doctors has not changed at all since 1940, according to a new study.
In 1900, 1.3% of physicians were Black. In 1940, 2.8% of physicians were Black, and by 2018 — when almost 13% of the population was Black — 5.4% of doctors were Black, reports Dan Ly, MD, PhD, MPP, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a study published April 19, 2021 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The proportion of male Black physicians was 2.7% in 1940 and 2.6% in 2018. Ly also found a significant wage gap. The median income earned by White doctors was $50,000 more than the median income of Black physicians in 2018. Ly based his findings on the US Census Decennial Census long form, accessed via a free database funded by the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.
“If we care about the health of the population, particularly the health of Black patients, we should care about how small the proportion of our physicians who are Black is and the extremely slow progress we have made as a medical system in increasing that proportion,” Ly told Medscape Medical News.
Ly said he took on this research in part because previous studies have shown that Black patients are more likely to seek preventive care from Black doctors. Thus, increasing the numbers of Black physicians could narrow gaps in life expectancy between Whites and Blacks.
He also wanted to see whether progress had been made as a result of various medical organizations and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) undertaking initiatives to increase workforce diversity. There has been “very, very little” progress, he said.
Norma Poll-Hunter, PhD, the AAMC’s senior director of workforce diversity, said Ly’s report “was not surprising at all.”
In 2014 Association of American Medical Colleges reported that the number of Black men who apply to and matriculate into medical schools has been declining since 1978. That year, there were 1410 Black male applicants and 542 Black enrollees. In 2014, there were 1337 applicants and 515 enrollees.
Since 2014, Black male enrollment has increased slightly, rising from 2.4% in the 2014–2015 school year to 2.9% in the 2019–2020 year.
SOURCE: Medscape Medical News