Ophthalmology Departments Remain Among the Least Diverse Clinical Departments at US Medical Schools

Published:January 10, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2021.01.006

      Abstract

      Objective

      The current demographics of the physician workforce, including ophthalmologists, do not reflect the diverse US population, which has implications for addressing health disparities in the US. The demographics of ophthalmology department faculty may influence the recruitment of under-represented students into the field of ophthalmology. This study sought to determine how the racial/ethnic demographics of ophthalmology department faculty compare to other clinical departments at US medical schools.

      Design

      Secondary data analysis of medical school faculty demographic data from the 2019 American Association of Medical Colleges Faculty Roster.

      Participants

      Clinical faculty and department chairs at US Medical Schools.

      Methods

      We analyzed the racial/ethnic demographics of clinical department faculty and department chairpersons using data from the 2019 American Association of Medical Colleges Faculty Roster. We calculated the proportion of under-represented minority (URM) faculty in ophthalmology and in 17 other individual clinical departments. We analyzed these data for statistically-significant differences between ophthalmology and other clinical departments. In addition, we compared the percentage of URM physicians among ophthalmology faculty to the proportion of URM persons among graduating US medical students and in the US population using data from the Medical School Graduation Questionnaire and the US census respectively.

      Main measures

      The proportion of URM persons, defined as Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander among clinical faculty and department chairs.

      Results

      Ophthalmology faculty at US medical schools are less racially/ethnically diverse than graduating US medical students and the general US population. When compared to 17 other clinical departments, ophthalmology has the third-lowest proportion of URM faculty, with only radiology and orthopedic surgery having a smaller proportion of URM faculty. These differences were statistically significant in the majority of departments evaluated (12 out of 18). There was no statistically-significant difference in the proportion of URM department chairs in ophthalmology compared to most other clinical departments, though the absolute number of URM department chairs in ophthalmology is low at only 8 chairpersons.

      Conclusions

      More work must be done to increase the recruitment of URM physicians into ophthalmology faculty positions to obtain parity with other clinical departments and with the diverse patient population that physicians serve.

      Key words

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