Crain’s New York: Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Prioritize diversity among doctors

June 30, 2020 01:19 PM

Getty Images: 
Medical workers take in patients at a special coronavirus intake area at Maimonides Medical Center on April 07, 2020 in Brooklyn.

To the editor:

We were glad to see the editorial board’s statement that “It’s essential for NY to acknowledge bias in health care.”

As Covid-19 brings a renewed focus on addressing health disparities, we urge policymakers to include efforts to increase diversity among doctors as a key tool in this effort. 

Research on health disparities has found evidence of improved treatment and prevention when patients are seen by a racially concordant doctor or a doctor from a similar racial background.

Additionally, doctors from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to work in primary care and in medically underserved areas, where there are physician shortages and decreased access to care.

Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough diverse doctors to meet the needs of diverse patients. Here in New York state, only 12% of the physician workforce is Black or Latinx, compared with 31% of the population.

In order to increase diversity among doctors, we must address the systemic barriers to medical school, including financial barriers, alongside the lack of access to mentorship and guidance during high school or undergraduate studies.

Publicly-funded pipeline programs and scholarships for students from underrepresented backgrounds are successful in supporting aspiring doctors to become physicians but have shrunk over the years instead of expanding to meet the need. The pandemic has shown us we can’t wait any longer to prioritize diversity among doctors.

Jo Wiederhorn
President and CEO
The Associated Medical Schools of New York