Diversity of radiology trainees lags behind other specialties

Trainees in some specialties—including radiology—are significantly less diverse than in others, according to a new study featured in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Curtiland Deville, MD, of the John Hopkins University department of radiation oncology and molecular radiation sciences, and colleagues used 2012 data to examine the diversity of graduate medical education (GME) in the U.S. They specifically focused on differences in representation by females and underrepresented minority groups in medicine (URMs), which include blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

Overall, the study found that women, who made up just over 50 percent of the U.S. population in 2012, accounted for the majority of GME trainees in seven specialties: obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, dermatology, internal medicine/pediatrics, family medicine, pathology, and psychiatry.

Obstetrics and gynecology had the highest percentage of female trainees, 82.4 percent, while radiation oncology, diagnostic radiology, urology, neurological surgery and orthopedic surgery had the lowest percentages.

URMs, who made up approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population in 2012, did not show the same level of diversity in GME.

“In no specialties, however, were the percentages of black or Hispanic trainees comparable with the representation of these groups in the U.S. population,” the authors wrote.

According to the authors, obstetrics and gynecology was “noteworthy” for being so diverse in regard to URMs. The specialty had 10.3 percent of trainees who were black and 8.7 percent who were Hispanic.

For other specialties, including radiology, the statistics showed that increased diversity should be a focus in the years ahead.

“Radiology, orthopedic surgery, and otolaryngology were the only specialties with representation significantly decreased for women, blacks, and Hispanics,” the authors wrote. “Continued efforts are needed to increase the diversity of the physician workforce in the United States, particularly in the specialties with the lowest representations of women, blacks, or Hispanics.”

Laura E. Riley, MD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital department of obstetrics and gynecology, wrote a commentary related to this study, also published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Looking over the analysis by Deville and colleagues, Riley said she is thankful that specialties related to women’s healthcare display so much diversity, but wishes she knew what led to this trend.

“It is important to learn what factors contributed to the increase in numbers of women, blacks, and Hispanics in obstetrics and gynecology and whether those factors could improve representation in other specialties,” Riley wrote.

She also wrote about the importance of diversity beyond training.

“Progress will stall if women or underrepresented minorities do not advance,” Riley said. “Ensuring a diverse physician workforce will require the continuing attention of medical school leadership and health care systems, and interventions to provide opportunities for diverse physicians to join the leadership ranks. Increasing physician diversity is yet another opportunity to improve the quality of care for all of our patients, particularly the most disadvantaged and those with a disproportionate burden of disease."