Dana-Farber and Mass General pledge to pour resources into minority recruitment

Three nurses walking down a hospital corridor
Two elite Boston hospitals are taking steps to improve the diversity of both their clinical staffs and their patient populations. (Getty/VILevi)

Two Boston teaching hospitals have pledged to improve minority recruitment of health workers following a series of reports highlighting a lack of diversity in Boston’s top hospitals and care discrepancies among patients.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital both told the Boston Globe they planned to pour more resources, including hiring executives focused on improving diversity and inclusion in their respective organizations.

RELATED: Industry Voices—To improve care quality, embrace diversity in healthcare leadership roles

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In Boston, the Globe Spotlight series found black patients were significantly less likely to seek care at Mass General and Dana-Farber than at peer hospitals. According to the series, Dana-Farber treats roughly 40% of Boston residents who receive a cancer diagnosis overall, a number that drops to 20% among black residents of the city.

It's part of a broader problem in health care.

The lack of diversity in the physician workforce can impact patient care. For instance, studies indicate minority patients are more likely to seek out and follow advice from doctors who look like they do. 

But translating that knowledge into action has presented a problem for hospitals, Joseph L. Wright, M.D., M.P.H., told STAT, suggesting minorities face issues across the entire educational pipeline from secondary school through residency. 

In 2013, 4.1% of active physicians in the U.S. were black, 4.4% were Hispanic or Latino, less than 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native and 11.7% were Asian and about half of all U.S. doctors were white, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges

RELATED: 4 policy recommendations to address barriers women physicians of color face in U.S. healthcare

Dana-Farber’s response includes a plan to incorporate diversity goals into its 2018 strategic plan. The institute also plans to mandate that faculty and administrative leaders complete a bias awareness workshop. Mass General officials said they intend to recruit more minority physicians and plan a promotional push to ensure patients in minority communities are aware of Mass General’s offerings.

“There is a void of a narrative about MGH in the communities of Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester,” Shea Asfaw, Mass General’s chief of staff, told the Globe.