• Current and Future Status of Diversity in Ophthalmologist Workforce

    Written By: Peggy Denny and edited by Neil M. Bressler, MD

    Journal Highlights

    JAMA Ophthalmology, September 2016

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    Because an increase in level of diversi­ty among ophthalmologists may help reduce disparities in eye care, Xierali et al. assessed the current ophthalmology workforce—and also estimated future diversity based on medical students who said they wanted to enter ophthal­mology residency—by sex, race, and ethnicity between 2005 and 2015. They found that women and ethnic minori­ties are still underrepresented and will remain so, at least in the near future.

    To study the demographic trends and characteristics among ophthal­mologists, the researchers used the 2005-2015 annual AMA Physician Masterfile. To estimate the demo­graphics of future ophthalmologists, they looked at ophthalmology resi­dents and analyzed the responses of medical school graduates who, on the Medical School Graduation Question­naire, indicated plans to specialize in ophthalmology.

    Among the key results, the authors found that both women and minority groups traditionally underrepre­sented in medicine (URM)—black, Hispanic, and Native American—were underrepresented as practicing ophthalmologists (22.7% and 6%, respectively), ophthalmology faculty (35.1% and 5.7%, respectively), and ophthalmology residents (44.3% and 7.7%, respectively), compared with the U.S. population (50.8% and 30.7%, respectively). Although there had been a modest increase in the proportion of female practicing ophthalmologists over the last decade, no increase was identified in URM ophthalmologists.

    A similar pattern was seen for residents, with an increase in the propor­tion of female residents (from 35.6% to 44.3%; p = .001) and a slight decrease in the proportion of URM residents (from 8.7% to 7.7%; p = .04). The proportion of URM groups among ophthalmology faculty also slightly decreased during the study period (from 6.2% to 5.7%; p = .01). However, a higher proportion of URM ophthalmologists practiced in medically under­served areas (p < .001).

    The authors concluded that, given the prevalent racial/ethnic disparities in eye care and an increasingly diverse society, future research and training efforts should intentionally focus on increasing the level of diversity among ophthalmology residents to benefit from the full range of talent that exists in the United States.

    The original article can be found here.