Infectious Disease

No significant increase in the proportion of black doctors since 1900

April 22, 2021

2 min read

Source / information

Source:

Ly DP. J Gen Intern Med. 2021; doi: 10.1007 / s11606-021-06745-1.

Disclosure:
Ly does not report any relevant financial information.

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The percentage of black doctors rose only 4% from 1900 to 2018, and there are still significant income gaps between black and white doctors, according to data published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

“Representation is important. Both representation in the workforce of doctors in general as well as representation in all specialist areas of medicine ”, Dr. Dan P. Ly, PhD, MPP, assistant professor in the department of general internal medicine and health research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a hospital physician for the VA Greater Los Angeles Health System told Healio Primary Care.

According to Ly, the representation has implications for public health.

“Studies like those by Marcella Alsan and colleagues show that black patients are more likely to receive preventative treatment from black doctors and that increasing the number of black doctors could therefore narrow the black-and-white gaps in life expectancy,” Ly said. “So it seems important to have a doctor who looks like you and who better understands you and your experience.”

Ly used data from the Decennial Census and the American Community Survey to estimate the percentage of people in the United States as a whole and population of U.S. doctors who were black between 1900 and 2018, and to estimate the median earnings between black and white male doctors to compare. Ly wrote that the study’s income measure “focused on male doctors because there are significant differences in racial income among this population and because there were few black women doctors in previous periods”.

Of the 149,840 doctors in the sample, 4,891 were blacks (men, n = 4,891; women, n = 1,605).

At any point in the study, the percentage of black doctors was lower than the percentage of the general US population, according to the study data. The proportion of black doctors rose from 1.3% in 1900 to 2.8% in 1940 (men 2.7%; women 0.1%) and was 5.4% in 2018 (men 2.6%; Women 2.8%) increase of “only 4 percentage points over 120 years,” wrote Ly.

The increase in the percentage of black doctors from 1940 to 2018 was due to the fact that more black women became doctors, according to Ly. There was no statistically significant difference in the proportion of black men who were doctors from 1940 to 2018, but the proportion of black women who were doctors increased 2.7% (95% CI, 2.2-3 ,1).

According to Ly, the income differences between black and white doctors were statistically significant in each survey year. In 1960 the difference was the equivalent of $ 68,000. By 2018, Ly wrote that the difference had only improved slightly to $ 50,000.

“Based on the research above, if we are concerned with the health of the population, especially the health of black patients, we should be concerned with how small the proportion of our black doctors is and what extremely slow progress we have made as health professionals in the system increasing that percentage, ”said Ly. “Because of the slow progress, the recruitment and retention efforts, as well as the approval process, need to be re-examined across the medical system.”

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Race and medicine

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