With A Shortage Of Black Doctors, Who Will Care For Black People?

black doctor looking at x-ray

Too few members of minority groups are pursuing careers in U.S. medicine, resulting in a serious lack of diversity among general practitioners and specialty doctors, a new report finds.

Publicly reported data gathered by researchers showed that in 2012:

  • Blacks made up just under 4 percent of practicing physicians, 6 percent of trainees in graduate medical education and 7 percent of medical school graduates. The overall population of the United States was 15 percent black in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Hispanics made up just over 5 percent of practicing physicians, 7.5 percent of graduate medical education trainees, and slightly more than 7 percent of medical school graduates. Their share of the total U.S. population is about 17 percent, according to 2013 census figures.

“My father graduated medical school in 1960, and at that time only 3 percent of doctors were black,” said Dr. Wayne Riley, president of the American College of Physicians (ACP) and a clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

“This study shows 3.8 percent of doctors are black. We’ve had barely perceptible progress. Over a 50-year period, we are still nowhere near African-American and Latino physicians representing their percentage of the population,” said Riley, who is black.

The study findings were published in the Aug. 24 edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Diversity is important for many reasons that relate directly to patient care, experts said.