Physician residency selection data show racial, ethnic minorities are underrepresented

Specialties have greater proportions of White applicants.

The physician residency selection process could have systemic disparities that lead to greater proportions of White applicants and underrepresentation of some racial and ethnic minority groups.

Advocates for diversity in medicine have argued a workforce that reflects population demographics can improve health care access, patient satisfaction and outcomes in the United States. But there has been little improvement over time in the proportions of matched residents from groups underrepresented in medicine, said the research letter, “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Resident Selection in 11 Specialties, 2013-2018,” published June 28 in JAMA.

Researchers examined residency data from the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association from 2013 to 2018 for 11 competitive medical specialties: dermatology, emergency medicine, general surgery, neurological surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, plastic surgery, diagnostic radiology, radiation oncology and urology.

Applicants were divided into three groups: Asian, non-Hispanic White, and underrepresented, including Black, American Indian or Alaskan native, Hispanic or Latino, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Comparing applicants and matched residents, they found all specialties had significantly lower proportions of underrepresented individuals.

“Overrepresentation of White matched residents and underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minority groups other than Asian across competitive specialties suggests systemic disparities within the residency selection process,” the research letter said. The authors suggested additional research to examine the differences in residency screening, reviewing, interviewing, and ranking.