Doctors of color make up almost two-thirds of all the doctors in the United States, according to a new study.
But as a group, they are under-represented in the country’s health care workforce.
A total of 23,000 doctors of color were hired in the US in 2015.
This compares with just 12,000 black physicians.
It’s a disparity that researchers say has significant health consequences.
It highlights the power of being black in the medical profession.
Black doctors are underrepresented, despite the fact that they represent the largest segment of the US population, according the report, which was published online on Friday in the Journal of Health Economics.
Black physicians earn only 15% of the total pay of white physicians, according it.
The gap has also been widening over the past decade, with the number of African American physicians in the workforce now growing faster than white physicians.
Dr John Buford, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-author of the report said there were several reasons for the underrepresentation.
“One is that people have difficulty identifying African Americans as being a part of the medical workforce, and there’s also a tendency among some doctors to be more critical of their colleagues, rather than accepting them as their peers,” Dr Bufords said.
“There’s also the perception that being a black doctor is more difficult than being a white doctor.”
Dr Bux says this perception was likely fuelled by the fact black doctors tended to be younger and less experienced than their white colleagues.
“That can make it harder for African Americans to get hired into the profession and for their colleagues to be receptive to the ideas of a black physician, especially if they’re not from the same community,” Dr Brown said.
The study also examined how people of color perceived the role of black physicians in their healthcare workforce.
Researchers surveyed people who work in the healthcare field and found that nearly half of respondents said that black doctors were often the “most qualified” and “most experienced” in their roles, compared with fewer than one in 10 white respondents.
They also found that black physicians were often less likely to be assigned to specialist or advanced practice areas.
Dr Bix said that, if doctors of colour were to be considered a fully representative workforce, it would need to be reflected in pay.
“The average black physician is making $11,000 less than a white physician, or less than that of an African American,” he said.
However, Dr Brown says that it’s important to consider the fact there are only 13,000 blacks in the entire US population.
He said there is a “massive under-representation” of African Americans in healthcare.
“It’s hard to quantify exactly how many people of colour are in healthcare, but if you look at the demographics of the population, there’s not going to be a disproportionate number of people of minority ethnicity,” Dr Brian Sallenger, an associate professor of health policy at George Washington University, said.
Dr Brown is currently working on a project to track the racial composition of healthcare professionals in the state of Washington.
“We need to have better ways of making these estimates and then have a conversation about the numbers that are available and how we can be more accurate in the way we’re looking at these figures,” he told ABC News.
The research was funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The full report is available online.
Topics: healthcare-facilities, healthcare-research, health, united-states