The underrepresentation of minorities among physicians is considered a significant health care concern. Previous work has shown that, for underrepresented minority (URM) patients, URM doctors may provide more culturally appropriate care, more access to care and may be preferred by the patients themselves. This study looked at two related questions: Do URM pediatricians serve more minority and poor patients, including publicly insured or not insured children? Has this changed over time?
The data was culled from surveys by the American Academy of Pediatrics of its fellows in 1993, 2000 and 2007. Respondents numbered 1,003 in 1993, of which 10.2 percent were URMs; 707 in 2000, of which 11.8 percent were URMs; and 900 in 2007, of which 11.8 percent were URMs. Survey response rates exceeded 50 percent.
- In all three survey years, the average percentage of URM children within a minority pediatrician’s patient group was approximately 20 percentage points higher than for non-URM doctors.
- Although the overall percentage of minority patients was the same for black and Hispanic doctors, the composition of patient groups was not because more patients had the same race/ethnicity as their own pediatricians.
- Minority doctors consistently saw more uninsured or publicly insured children than their non-URM peers. That gap widened significantly during the three surveys: URM doctors have seen an increasing percentage of uninsured or publicly insured patients (from 46% in 1993 to nearly 60% in 2007). While non-minority doctors have not seen any significant change in the insurance status of their patient group, with the percentage of uninsured and publicly insured patients consistently hovering around 40 percent.
The minority composition of the doctors’ patient groups were unverified estimates provided by the pediatricians themselves. But the data and results of this assessment are consistent with other studies which indicate URM pediatricians continue to play a critical role in the treatment of minority and poor children. This suggests that, despite recent efforts to reduce or eliminate programs that encourage minorities to enter medical professions, there is a real need to recruit qualified URMS into pediatric careers.