Surgical Training Residencies Lack Material Appealing to Those Underrepresented in Medicine, SMHS Research Team Finds

During 2020, when recruitment for surgical residencies largely moved online, material targeting underrepresented in medicine groups did not rise to meet the need, according to a recent study by a team from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).

Diversity in medicine can lead to improved patient outcomes and team performances, the team, which included third-year medical student Ryan Mortman; Harold Frazier, MD, associate dean for graduate medical education and professor of urology; and Yolanda Haywood, MD, associate dean for student affairs, interim senior associate dean for diversity and faculty affairs, and associate professor of emergency medicine, noted. However, those underrepresented in medicine, such as Black, Latino, American Indian and Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander medical school graduates, are entering the profession in low numbers.

To pinpoint how and if residency programs can improve their recruitment efforts, the team examined the range of diversity and inclusion-related information on 425 allopathic and osteopathic general surgery, integrated thoracic surgery, and integrated vascular surgery residency program websites in the United States.

“Of all the sites we looked at, less than 20% contained any diversity and inclusion information that could be of interest to underrepresented in medicine applicants,” Mortman said. “While we didn’t look at social media, which could have more information, we do think that these programs should consider their websites as a platform for advocacy to encourage underrepresented students to pursue surgery and associated specialties.”

Subsequent studies, according to Mortman, Frazier, and Haywood, could take a deeper look at these sites. Changes in content, such as community outreach programs related to specific residencies, profiles of current residents and faculty, or outcome metrics focusing on diversity and inclusion initiatives, could help improve recruitment of more diverse residency cohorts. 

“Just providing a mission statement for diversity and inclusion on program websites is not enough,” said Mortman. “It benefits everyone – residencies, residents, and, most importantly, patients – to have a more diverse group of residents. These residency programs are missing out on a key component of medicine when they fail to attract underrepresented in medicine applicants.”

The study, “Diversity and Inclusion on General Surgery, Integrated Thoracic Surgery, and Integrated Vascular Surgery Residency Program Websites,” appeared in the June 2021 issue of the Journal of Graduate Medical Education.

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