Report: California Physicians Less Diverse Than Overall Population
California has a disproportionate number of Asian and white doctors but falls dramatically short in the number of Hispanic and black physicians relative to overall state demographics, according to a report released Wednesday by the UC-San Francisco Center for California Health Workforce Studies, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Of the state's nearly 62,000 licensed, practicing physicians, the report found that:
- About 39,000 or 61% are white, while about 48% of the state's population is white;
- About 26% are Asian and Pacific Islander, while 11% of the population is Asian;
- About 3,300 or 5% are Hispanic, while about 33% of the state's population is Hispanic; and
- About 2,000 or 3% are black, compared with 7% of the state's population (Fernandez, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/3).
The study also found disparities among some communities that make up the broader Asian and Pacific Islander ethnic categories. Less than 0.5% of the total physician population was of Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong and Samoan descent (Darcé, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/3).
The report's data were compiled from the California Medical Board after a 2001 state law mandated that the board gather data on ethnicity, physician specialties, work hours, practice location and spoken languages (East Bay Business Times, 4/2).
Experts attributed the disparities in physician ethnicity to court decisions that have blocked the use of affirmative action policies for admissions to state university medical schools, as well as the high cost of medical schools (Krieger, MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 4/3).
The study also found that minority physicians were more likely than whites to choose primary care fields such as pediatrics, internal or family medicine and to practice in low-income, urban or rural communities (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 4/3).
To overcome the disparities, the report recommended:
- Increasing investments in minority education;
- Promoting diversity in state medical education;
- Holding health professional schools accountable for their diversity, recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities; and
- Increasing incentives for working in underserved communities (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/3).
UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine has developed an outreach program for minorities, but because of the high cost of tuition and constraints on the work force, difficulties remain, according to Patricia Pratt, director of academic enrichment and outreach (Evans, Los Angeles Daily News, 4/2).
A proposed medical school at UC-Merced also could boost the number of physicians from diverse ethnic backgrounds, Maria Pallavicini, dean of natural sciences at UC-Merced, said (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 4/2).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Thursday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Kevin Grumbach, director of the Center for California Health Workforce Studies at UCSF (Weiss, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 4/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.