Examining the Diversity Problem in Dermatology

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Dermatology is ranked the second least diverse medical field, following only behind orthopedics.
Dermatology is ranked the second least diverse medical field, following only behind orthopedics.

Dermatology is ranked the second least diverse medical field, following only behind orthopedics, according to a research letter published in JAMA Dermatology.

Fewer than 5% of African American and Hispanic people in the United States are dermatologists. That is less than double the percentage of the African American population in the country and less than triple the percentage of Hispanics.

One reason for this disconnect is the barriers that affect many minorities when it comes to the medical field in general: lack of representation and money. When minority students do join the medical field, dermatology is not at the top of their list.

Yssra S. Soliman, BA, of the Division of Dermatology, Department of Internal Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, and colleagues examined some of the specifics for minority students applying for a dermatology residency. The investigators sent an electronic survey to 242 medical students asking their thoughts on the most important factors for applying to a dermatology residency. Of the students who accessed the survey, 155 responded (64% response rate).

“Overall, participants cited US Medical Licensing Examination Step 1, clinical grades, and the risk of not matching as the most important barriers to applying for a dermatology residency,” wrote Ms Soliman. “However, minority students reported the lack of diversity, perceived negative perceptions of minority students by residencies, socioeconomic factors, and lack of mentors as major barriers.”

The low number of minorities is concerning, particularly because race-concordant visits tend to result in patients reporting greater satisfaction and longer visits with the physician. More effort should be taken to reach minority students early and often.

“The perceived barriers highlight the need to actively recruit and mentor students of all backgrounds,” the authors concluded. “Efforts should be made to increase minority students' exposure to dermatology by incorporating it into the curriculum, providing research opportunities, and reducing the cost of ‘visiting electives' by providing stipends.”

Reference

Soliman YS, Rzepecki AK, Guzman AK, et al. Understanding perceived barriers of minority medical students pursuing a career in dermatology [published online January 9, 2019]. JAMA Dermatol. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.481

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