Do Religious Physicians Disproportionately Care for the Underserved?

The relationship between practice with the underserved and physician religiosity is explored in this study. Data from a national sample of physicians yielded survey responses from 1,144 physicians. Surveys assessed physicians' views on religious practices and medicine as a calling and the extent of their practice with underserved populations.

Key Findings:

  • The proportion of physicians who reported working with underserved patients was 26 percent.
  • Psychiatrists had the highest rate of practice with underserved patients at 40 percent; medical subspecialists had the lowest rate at 21 percent.
  • The likelihood of practicing with underserved patients was higher for physicians who reported: higher spirituality (odds ratio (OR) = 1.7), more of an agreement that intrinsic religiosity, or personal beliefs about religion, impacted how they practiced medicine (OR = 1.6), and growing up in families where service to the poor was important (OR = 1.7).
  • Physicians who were more likely to report their career in medicine was a calling did not have a higher likelihood of working with underserved patients.
  • Physicians who reported being more religious did not have a higher likelihood of practicing in underserved communities. They did have a higher likelihood of reporting that a career in medicine was a calling and that they grew up in families where service to the poor was important.

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