News for faculty and staff

Contact | Past Issues

Week of February 1, 2010

Research

Med schools need to recruit underrepresented minorities

The number of underrepresented minorities among U.S. medical school faculty remains low, even as the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse.

And the level of underrepresented minorities currently being trained in medicine is unlikely to reverse those trends, according to a U-M analysis and commentary published this month in the journal Gastroenterology.

Underrepresented minorities that were primarily addressed include black or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians, Alaskan or Hawaiian natives and other Pacific Islanders.

“The low representation and the stagnation of the numbers of black and Hispanic faculty in U.S. medical schools is troubling,” says Dr. Juanita Merchant, professor in the departments of Internal Medicine and Molecular & Integrative Physiology.

“We need to plug the leaky pipeline that allows underrepresented minorities to escape before they can complete the process that allows them to go on to becoming medical or research faculty,” says Merchant, who co-authored the study with Dr. M. Bishr Omary, chair of the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology.

The underrepresented minority categories mentioned above only comprise about 7 percent of practicing physicians in the U.S., but those populations make up about 27 percent of the U.S. population. Similarly, in 2008, only 7.3 percent of all medical school faculty are underrepresented minorities.

A national effort led by the Association of American Medical Colleges sought to enroll 3,000 underrepresented minorities annually into U.S. medical schools by the year 2000. As of 2007 the number of admitted underrepresented minorities in medical schools was only 2,500. Of those, 6.4 percent were black, 7.2 percent were Hispanic and 0.5 percent were American Indians, Alaskan or Hawaiian natives and other Pacific Islanders.

“Academic medical faculty who are training the next generation of physicians as well as those delivering health care should reflect the diverse populations they will be serving,” Merchant says.

Another important point is that the percentage of male faculty outnumber female faculty dramatically. The percent of female faculty also declines from the instructor to professor rank, Merchant says.

“We have a huge number of women at the entry level, who just don’t make it up the ladder,” Merchant says.

 

STAFF SPOTLIGHT

Teresa Herzog Mourad, on her favorite part of her job: “I am constantly inspired by changes people make in their alcohol-related attitudes and behaviors.”