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Lagging diversity in pediatric academic faculty spurs call for improved recruitment, more mentoring

August 22, 2022

Pediatric academic faculty have become more racially diverse over the past two decades, but that growth has been particularly slow among men and still lags far behind the overall population, according to a new study.

“The paucity of diversity in the academic pediatric workforce may impede efforts to create more equitable health care environments for the rapidly diversifying patient populations,” authors wrote in “Trends in the Diversity of Pediatric Faculty: 2000-2020” (Omoruyi EA, et al. Pediatrics. Aug. 23, 2022).

Researchers analyzed 2000-’20 data on more than 350,000 pediatric faculty from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Those underrepresented in medicine (URiM) include Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander faculty.

In 2020, about 8% of professors, 10% of associate professors and 14% of assistant professors were from an underrepresented group, with the diversity of each faculty level rising about 3% over the two decades.

About 8% of faculty were females from underrepresented groups in 2020, up from about 4% in 2000, while males from these groups stayed the same at 4% in both years, according to the study. Some male subgroups saw declines, including Black males, who dropped from 1.32% to 1.04% of faculty.

The study also showed the diversity of pediatric faculty was not keeping up with the U.S. population. For instance, about 4.4% of faculty are Black compared to 12.1% of the population. About 7.1% of faculty are Hispanic compared to 18.7% of the population.

“The stagnation of URiM male representation and lack of faculty diversity reflective of the US population may have a critical impact on the field of pediatrics’ ability to recruit and retain a diverse workforce and promote equitable care,” authors wrote.

Black males are more likely to face racism in school, and their higher education enrollment is lower than for Black women, according to the study. Black men who enter academic medicine have lower promotion rates than other groups.

Authors called on institutions to track hiring and promotions and include underrepresented faculty on search and hiring committees. They also stressed the importance of mentoring programs, especially those that pair people of the same race/ethnicity and gender.

“Mentorship is a known factor important to the success of URiM medical students, trainees and faculty,” they wrote. “… literature suggests concordant mentor and mentee relationships are actively sought out by URiM trainees because of shared lived experiences and having a mentor ‘who looks like you.’”

In a related commentary, AAP Board member Joseph L. Wright, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, who chairs the board’s Equity Committee, and W. Christopher Golden, M.D., FAAP, a member of the AAP Section on Minority Health, Equity, and Inclusion, echoed the call for more mentorship of underrepresented faculty as well as for more people from underrepresented groups in leadership positions.

“The collective talent and unique lived experience perspectives of these individuals will provide valuable synergy and ‘see it to be it’ visibility for members as all pediatric providers engage in this necessary work,” they wrote, emphasizing that underrepresented groups should not shoulder the burden themselves. “Transformative change in any profession, sector or domain starts with leadership at the top; addressing diversity and inclusion in academic pediatrics is no different.”



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