Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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Women of Color Physicians Severely Underrepresented in the Medical Field
By By Kimberlee Buck, Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2017

Artemis Medical Society Vice President Dr. Deonza Thymes (Courtesy of the Artemis Medical Society)

“America needs doctors as diverse as our population, but we don’t have them due to a flawed system,” said Artemis Medical Society President Dr. Myiesha Taylor in a statement.

As a result, millions of Americans of color do not have access to “culturally competent care” from a health provider whom they may feel more comfortable with.

To address the issue of lack of diversity in the medical field, the Los Angeles Sentinel spoke with Artemis Medical Society Vice President Dr. Deonza Thymes.

In early November, Fort Worth, Texas-based Artemis Medical Society and the Greenlining Institute of California co-authored a report titled, “Breaking Down Barriers for Women Physicians of Color.”

The report is based off the co-authors interviews with 20 women physicians from around the United States.

“The purpose of the Women Physicians of Color Research Initiative is to ensure that we capture and understand the barriers women of color face in becoming physicians and practicing medicine,” said Thymes.

“There is very little data collected in this area and we believe that it is important to capture personal experiences and corresponding data if we are ever going to address these barriers.”

Why are women of color making up only 11.7 percent of doctors?

One key factor is lack of support from educators. Some interviewees described having a lack of support from high school and college counselors, college professors, and graduate students. During the interviews, 40 percent of physicians recalled a high school or college counselor attempting to discourage them from pursuing a career in the medical industry.

“Over half [of the interviewees] had questioned their prospects of succeeding as a physician because they had never met a physician who shared their racial identity,” read the report.

Aside from absence of diversity among medical school faculty, participants also reported incidents of “overt racism” from lecturers and experience of unequal treatment during medical school and residency.

Artemis Medical Society Vice President Dr. Deonza Thymes at an event Artemis co-hosted with Disney built around the hit TV program, “Doc McStuffins.” (Courtesy of the Artemis Medical Society)

Some incidents involved female students, being told to remain silent while the professor encouraged male students to voice their opinions.

“Health sector employers, universities and foundations must all step their effort to diversify the physician pipeline and make cultural competence a core element of medical schools and residency programs,” said Greenlining Institute Health Policy Director and report co-author Anthony Galace.

“Medical schools and institutions must strengthen anti-discrimination and reporting policies to make sure that those who suffer discrimination feel safe in reporting it.”

Moreover, interviewees discussed the financial burdens of applying to medical schools. Each participant stated medical school cost them several thousand dollars.

Now that the report has been released, Thymes would like for the research project to shed light on the disparities women of color physicians face from the moment they began pursuing a career in the medical field. She believes that research projects similar to this are crucial in developing strategies to address “inequities in any area of our society.”

“It is our hope that the public will read the stories of these physicians in this report and look at the corresponding data and help engage policy makers and healthcare leaders in ensuring that our society has the diverse physician workforce that it needs to provide quality healthcare for all.”

“We wanted to ensure that people understood our experiences and that the issues described were not isolated events. Unfortunately, we still must prove that there is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed.”

How can women of color level their playing field? According to Thymes, women of color can level their playing field by not being discouraged by the process of becoming a physician.

“We must remember the trailblazers that came before us and opened the doors for us to become a physician,” she said.

“We want young women of color to know that we are here, and we will continue to fight to keep those doors open for them to join us as physicians. We need a diverse physician workforce to ensure all communities receive quality healthcare. We must encourage more young students to pursue STEM degrees and become physicians.”

For more information on the report please visit www.greenlining.org or www.artemismedicalsociety.org

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