Family Medicine on the Front Line for Increasing Diversity in Physician Workforce

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 15, 2014

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

WASHINGTON — Minorities’ chance of seeing a family physician from their background are increasingly getting better, but there’s still work to be done to improve diversity in family medicine, according to a one-pager in today’s American Family Physician.

The one-pager, “Family Medicine Residents: Increasingly Diverse, but Lagging Behind Underrepresented Minority Population Trends” by Imam Xierali, PhD, notes that family medicine is “on the front line” of increasing diversity in its workforce. But overall, the changing ethnic and racial mix in the American population has not been fully reflected in the physician workforce.

Xierali reviewed two decades of data from the U.S. Census and the Association of American Medical Colleges to compare trends in the racial and ethnic make-up of family medicine residents to trends in the U.S. population. They found that from 1990 to 2012, the Hispanic/Latino population grew 9 percent to 17 percent and the African American population grew from 11.7 percent to 12.2 percent. During the same period, the percentage of Hispanic/Latino family medicine residents grew from 4.9 percent to 9.4 percent and the percentage of African American family medicine residents grew from 4.2 percent to 7.9 percent.

“Family physicians, the most widely distributed of the physician specialties, are on the front line of a physician trend toward greater racial and ethnic diversity over the past two decades, but residents still lag behind national growth in the underrepresented minority population,” Xierali writes. 

Research consistently demonstrates the importance of diversity in the physician workforce as the American population shifts. 

“Increased racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals is important,” said one-pager co-author Andrew Bazemore, MD, director of the Robert Graham Center where the data were collected. “Evidence indicates that — among other benefits — diversity is associated with improved access to health care for racial and ethnic minorities, greater patient choice and satisfaction, and better educational experiences for health professions students. So while we seek solutions to perceived overall shortages in our nation’s physician workforce, it’s important that we also examine deficiencies in its distribution, and as importantly, its composition.”


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.