As a young, black woman, Amber Robins, M.D., says she always puts on her white coat when she steps inside the hospital.
If she doesn’t wear it, people won’t think she is a doctor, writes Robins, a resident in family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in an article on ABC News, where she is also a medical resident in the TV network’s medical unit.
“Some patients are excited to see me, others don’t know what to do with me, and there is even a group that would prefer for me not to be their doctor,” says Robins.
Despite efforts to encourage more African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans to become doctors, only 6 percent of practicing doctors are minorities, she says. By 2050, the percentage of minorities in the United States is expected to surpass 50 percent, but she worries that they will continue to be underrepresented in medicine.
It’s not just a lonely place for physicians, the lack of diversity also has an impact on patients. A new study published in Health Affairs found that minorities living in urban areas of Philadelphia face challenges finding doctors in their neighborhoods. Urban areas with high numbers of African Americans and Hispanics had low numbers of primary care physicians, making it harder for people to access care.
Colleges need to do more to encourage minority students to pursue careers in medicine, says Robins, citing her alma mater, Xavier University in Louisiana. Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., a former secretary of health and human services, makes the same point and worries the high cost of medical school is putting the dream of becoming a doctor out of reach for many minority students, as FiercePracticeManagement reported.