Increases in Women, Underrepresented Groups in Clinical Academic Departments

The increase in a more diverse faculty starts with a more diverse group of medical students and residents.

There has been increases in the proportions of women faculty across clinical academic departments over the past three decades.

Further, racial and ethnic diversity among faculty increased, but at a lower rate.

Alexander Yoo, M.D., and a team of investigators evaluated the distribution of women and underrepresented groups in medicine (American Indian or Alaskan Native, Black, Latino or Hispanic, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander) among U.S. medical school faculty for 16 clinical academic medical departments. To gather the information, the team used the Association of American Medical Colleges Faculty Roster from 1990-2019. Specialties included ranged from anesthesiology, to dermatology, to radiology, to neurology, and many more.

Models were used to estimate the mean change per year in percentages of women and underrepresented groups in medicine. Data included department, time, and a department-by-time interaction. The investigative team collected demographics like race and ethnicity of U.S. resident physicians from 2012-2013 from the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education.

Of the faculty entries reviewed from 1990-2019, 34.6% were women and 71.9% were for White physicians. In five of the clinical academic departments, proportions of women faculty increased, with women making up more than 50% of faculty members.

As of 2019, specialties with more women faculty did not necessarily have high representation compared with residents. The specialty with the highest proportion of women faculty, obstetrics and gynecology, had the third lowest representation ration (.81). And while orthopedic surgery had the lowest overall proportion of women faculty, it had the highest representation ratio (1.48).

When it came to underrepresented groups in medicine, most specialties had representation ratios of less than one, with an overall representation ratio of .76.

The investigators noted the increase in faculty diversity may be due to improvements in diversity among medical students and residents. Still, underrepresented groups in medicine faculty are still underrepresented compared with the resident pipelines for a majority of specialties. Most departments have only a fraction of the available underrepresented groups in medicine resident pipeline. There were also differences in representation ratios across departments for women.

Yoo and the team suggested additional investigation is needed to understand barriers and factors associated with women and underrepresented groups in medicine trainees from pursuing academic careers.

The research letter, “Representation of Women and Underrepresented Groups in US Academic Medicine by Specialty,” was published online in JAMA Network Open.