Address health disparities with doctor diversity
The recent research from the Commonwealth Fund shows we must address the dramatic health care disparities faced by Black and Latino New Yorkers [“Disparities in health care,” News, Nov. 18]. One tool we have is increasing diversity among our doctors, as outcomes are improved when patients receive care from doctors from similar racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The article cited disparities among infant mortality rates, and research has shown the mortality rate for Black babies is cut dramatically when Black doctors care for them after birth. But there are too few Black doctors to treat Black patients. Here in New York State, 34% of our population is Black or Hispanic, yet only 13% of our practicing doctors represent those communities.
To increase diversity among doctors, we must address the systemic obstacles to medical school, including financial, academic, and social barriers. Pipeline programs and scholarships for students from underrepresented backgrounds are successful in supporting aspiring doctors to become physicians, and should be expanded to meet our state’s needs.
Jo Wiederhorn, Norwalk, Conn.
The writer is president and CEO of Associated Medical Schools of New York.