Increasing representation among healthcare professionals is necessary to ensure that patients from all backgrounds receive the best care possible. However, data has shown that people of color are not adequately represented in the medical field.
Recent data from the Faculty Roster of the Association of American Medical Colleges suggests that there has been little improvement in racial and ethic group representation among medical school faculty. Only 5.5% of medical school faculty are Hispanic, Latinx or of Spanish origin; 3.6% are Black or African American; and 0.2% are Native American or Alaskan Native.
There are many reasons as to why progress has been slow in increasing diversity in medical schools, and an article from New England Journal of Medicine breaks down the structural inequities. Many academic medical institutions overlook the “structural inequities and system-level biases that prevent recruitment, retention, and advancement” of talented students and faculty from marginalized groups. However, the process of applying to medical school typically favors white, higher-income students.
The cost of applications and entrance exams can be unreachable for lower-income students, and favor those from higher-income households. Additionally, medical schools often use “inequitable criteria to admit students”, and place disproportionate weight on niche, high-cost extracurricular activities. Finally, implicit bias among admission committees can lead to noninclusive environments and unequal opportunities for applicants of color.
The New England Journal of Medicine offers solutions for addressing challenges related to diversity and inclusion. These include:
- Reevaluating standards for the recruitment of medical students and faculty
- Implementing programs that support students and faculty of color
- Unifying around a set of diversity-related goals
- Adding people of color to recruitment and promotion committees.
Robert F. Smith’s Support for Diversity in STEM
Robert F. Smith has supported multiple initiatives that focus on either increasing representation in STEM-related careers or helping improve health outcomes for people of color in healthcare. Here is a short list of initiatives he supports:
- Student Freedom Initiative works to financially support students of color pursuing STEM degrees at a number of HBCUs across the country.
- The Robert F. Smith Tech Scholars Program aids Black and female students pursuing engineering degrees.
- The Prostate Cancer Foundation introduced a non-invasive, early detection test to identify prostate cancer risk in men. Prostate cancer is one of the largest health disparities facing Black men today, and the Smith Polygenic Risk Test hopes to save lives.
- The Susan G. Komen Foundation: supported the African American Health Equity Initiative, which is working towards reducing Black breast cancer disparities by 25%.
Learn more about Smith’s efforts to support underrepresented people in STEM.