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Internists Support Initiatives to Ensure Diversity in the Physician Workforce, Oppose Efforts to End Them

Statement attributable to:
Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (August 7, 2020) —The American College of Physicians (ACP) strongly believes that the United States must act to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion in the physician workforce, including in medical education.  We reject the recommendation of Dr. Norman Wang in his recent Journal of the American Heart Association article, Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity: Evolution of Race and Ethnicity Considerations for the Cardiology Workforce in the United States of America From 1969 to 2019, that racial and ethnic preferences for undergraduate and medical school admissions be rolled back over the next 6 years.  Although the journal has retracted the article because “it contains many misconceptions and misquotes and . . . selective misreading of source materials,” ACP remains concerned that the author’s conclusion—that efforts to increase diversity in the physician workforce should end—is likely shared by others and can do great harm unless it is forcefully answered and rebutted.

Contrary to Dr. Wang’s ill-considered views, these are the realities faced by Black persons and other persons from underrepresented minorities who aspire to careers in medicine:

  • Studies show that diversity in the health care workforce is connected to better access for minority patients, improved patient satisfaction, strengthened cultural competence and sensitivity among other health professionals, and overall improved academic performance for students in health professions. Yet underrepresented minority medical students continue to face systematic discrimination that places significant barriers to their entry into the medical profession. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that for the 2018-2019 academic year, only 2,301 of nearly 20,000 medical school graduates identified as Black or Hispanic.  
  • While barriers to admission to medical school due to racism, discrimination and bias must be urgently addressed, society’s consideration of this issue needs to start well before medical school. Education of minority students at all educational levels, especially in the fields of math and science, needs to be strengthened and enhanced to create a larger pool of qualified underrepresented minority applicants for medical school.
  • Once admitted to medical schools, Black students and other underrepresented minorities often experience discrimination, racism, indifference and inattention to their circumstances and needs.  They are also less likely to be considered and promoted for medical school faculty positions.  They often are subject to bias, discrimination, and harassment throughout their medical careers.

Ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in the physician workforce requires doing more to overcome racism, discrimination and bias, not doing less.  ACP supports the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in requiring diversity in graduate medical education.  We believe that institutions of higher education must be allowed to consider a person’s race and ethnicity as one factor in determining admission in order to counter the impact of current discriminatory practices and the legacy of past discrimination practices. ACP joined with the American Association of Medical Colleges in an amici curiae brief to the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bolinger, in which we assert that “If medical schools cannot consider race or ethnicity in the admissions process, the already low number of minority physicians will decrease to critical levels, leaving this Nation’s health care system in a profound state of crisis.” 

ACP is committed to ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in the physician workforce, including countering those with influence whose views, if allowed to go unanswered, would accelerate such a profound state of crisis for patients and the medical profession.    

More about ACP’s positions can be found in our policies on Racism and Health in the United States and on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care

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About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org