Diversity in the Physician Workforce

This report is the 14th data book in the Facts and Figures series published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The series alternates between reports on diversity in medical education and in the physician workforce. The report consists of detailed statistics on demographics, medical school training, professional activity, practice specialty, geographic location and other areas of information. Data are for physicians graduated from U.S. allopathic medical schools and were gathered from medical school archives, AAMC databases and the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile. Some data from the United States Census Bureau are included. Because of the way data was collected, the report may underestimate the number of white physicians practicing.

Section I summarizes the benefits of a diverse workforce of physicians, including that physician diversity contributes to increased access to health care for underserved populations, such as patients of low socioeconomic status and Medicaid and uninsured patients. Racially concordant patient-physician visits are consistently reported by patients to be more satisfying, characterized by higher levels of trust, and, in one study, were 2.2 minutes longer.

Section II is devoted to the current status of racial and ethnic minority physicians. In 2004, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Native Americans comprised 6.4 percent of physicians; Asians comprised 5.7 percent. The report breaks these large groups into more specific ethnic divisions and also discusses gender divisions within subgroups. The number of ethnic minorities has increased steadily over the past two decades, with the most growth occurring among Asians.

Section III highlights data from Sections I and II and discusses their implications for addressing health care disparities; Section IV contains tables and United States Census Bureau data.

The report stresses the importance of increasing representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the physician workforce, in order to lessen disparities in access to health care and to provide a better understanding of cultural competence in practice.