Covert Costs of Racial and Ethnic Concordance in the Medical Workforce

Karen Kelly-Blake Libby Bogdan-Lovis

Over the past century US medical workforce demographics have shifted. Moving away from a white male dominated profession, there is a welcomed push towards increasing gender, ethnic, racial and linguistic representation. Commonly, that push is linked to notions of desirable doctor/patient identity matching - described here as “concordance.” That demographic shift is accompanied by policy initiatives and rhetoric shaping the professional futures of Native American, African American, and Latino underrepresented minority (URM) physicians. Do these policy initiatives carry social costs that inadvertently influence URM’s futures in the medical workforce? This analysis considers the nature of medical workforce policy strategies. Findings suggest that selectively placing service expectations not similarly placed on their non-minority physician colleagues along with unexamined assumptions of racial/ethnic concordance between patient and physician may place an undue burden on URMs.
Karen Kelly-Blake, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences and the Department of Medicine; Libby Bogdan-Lovis, MA, is the Assistant Director for the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University. Bogdan-Lovis and Kelly-Blake are co-leading a multi-institutional research project on Doctor-patient Race/Ethnic Concordance in the Medical Workforce. They are interested in unpacking the complexities surrounding underrepresented minority service to the underserved and how that service may distract those physicians from pursuing other medical professional opportunities.
Recorded January 18, 2017

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