Diversity lacking in diagnostic radiology physician workforce

Regardless of an available medical student pipeline, females and minorities in medicine remain underrepresented as diagnostic radiology residents in comparison with the U.S. population, according to a study published in the January 2014 issue of Radiology.

Diversifying the physician workforce has been targeted as a way to tackle health disparities, with numerous issues revealing and reinforcing the need for a diversified radiology workforce. Lead author Christina H. Chapman, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia wrote, “Examples include inadequate numbers of radiologists to perform breast imaging in all areas of the country, a critical shortage of pediatric radiologists, and racial and ethnic disparities in cancer screening, which include imaging tests as a major component.”

Chapman and colleagues thus created a study to evaluate the diversity of the U.S. diagnostic radiology physician workforce by race, Hispanic ethnicity, and sex within the context of the available pipeline of medical students. The researchers utilized publicly available American Medical Association, American Association of Medical Colleges, and U.S. census registries to assess differences in 2010 among diagnostic radiology practicing physicians, academic faculty, residents, subspecialty trainees, residency applicants, medical graduates, and the U.S. population.

After binomial tests were performed, results indicated that 23.5 percent of practicing physicians are female and 6.5 percent are traditionally underrepresented minorities (URM), which includes blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Females make up 27.8 percent of diagnostic radiology residents, and URM are represented in 8.3 percent of the residents. Researchers found that over the prior eight years, there was no significant increase in female or URM representation. This finding intimates no dramatic change in future representation as practicing physicians. Among the 20 largest residency training specialties, diagnostic radiology ranks 17th in female representation and 20th in URM representation.

“Given prevalent health care disparities and an increasingly diverse society, future research and training efforts should address increasing resident diversity,” concluded Chapman and colleagues.