Despite Gains, Diversity Among Medical School Faculty Trails Student, Overall Population

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, Jan. 16, 2017

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224    

WASHINGTON, DC — The diversity of medical school faculty has failed to keep up with the demographics of students and the overall American population — a potential barrier to increasing the number of women and minority physicians, according to a collaborative study by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Robert Graham Center.

The research, “Increasing Family Medicine Faculty Diversity Still Lags Population Trends(,” found that representation of minority and women medical school professors had improved since 1980. Family medicine was one of the leading specialties in increasing faculty minority and women representation. However, the pace of change is inadequate for building an academic medical faculty workforce that represents the student and general population.

The research, led by Imam Xierali, PhD, manager for public health and diversity at the AAMC, was published in the January-February issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

“Medical school faculty diversity has been linked to medical student diversity, the cultural competence of medical graduates, and the cultural climate of medical school campuses,” Xierali writes. Studies have found “a higher percentage of minority than white students reported that faculty diversity was a ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ factor in selecting a medical school. However, medical school faculty diversity has not kept pace with the diversity of medical school students or of the rest of society.”

Using data from the AAMC Faculty Roster, Xierali and his colleagues calculated the proportions of women and minorities among family medicine faculty and in all other department faculty as a group. They found “significant growth” in both the size and diversity, particularly among family medicine departments. However, the increase in diversity trailed the increases of minority and women among medical students and in the overall U.S. population. Moreover, most diversity was attained in the lower-rank professorships in all academic medical departments.

“Faculty diversity has grown, but still neither reflects the diversity of the U.S. population nor that of medical schools,” the report says. The finding that women and minority professors were concentrated in lower-rank professoriates “highlights the mobility barriers” such as subtle discrimination, overt prejudice, undervaluing contributions of these groups, family responsibilities or opting out of promotion paths.

“Better approaches are needed to improve faculty diversity and opportunities for promotion of diverse faculty in academic medicine overall and in family medicine faculty,” Xierali and his colleagues concluded.


About the Robert Graham Center

The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care works to improve individual and population health by enhancing the delivery of primary care. The Center staff generates and analyzes evidence that brings a family medicine and primary care perspective to health policy deliberations at local, state, and national levels.

Founded in 1999, the Robert Graham Center is an independent research unit affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The information and opinions contained in research from the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.