Research Examines Why Few Blacks Become Doctors

Armen Hareyan's picture

Research Examines Definition of Socioeconomic Status in Relation to Health Disparities, Why Few Blacks Become Doctors.

"Measurement of Socioeconomic Status in Health Disparities Research," Journal of the National Medical Association: The report, by Vickie Shavers of the National Cancer Institute's Applied Research Program, describes and evaluates various measures of socioeconomic status in relation to studies that cite it as a factor in health care disparities. While socioeconomic status is almost always included in epidemiologic research, its use is dependent on the availability of data, the report says. In addition, there has been relatively little study on the "specific manner in which low [socioeconomic status] influences receipt of quality care and consequent morbidity and mortality among patients with similar disease characteristics, particularly among those who have gained access to the healthcare system."


The report calls for more detailed, specific and conceptualized studies on how socioeconomic status affects health outcomes, which in turn could "inform social policy and program design to effectively reduce health disparities in a socially and economically diverse society" (Shavers, JNMA, September 2007).

"Why Aren't There More African-American Physicians? A Qualitative Study and Exploratory Inquiry of African-American Students' Perspectives on Careers in Medicine," JNMA: For the report, researchers Vijaya Rao of Loyola University' Stritch School of Medicine and Glenn Flores of University of Texas Southwestern's Medical Center and Children's Medical Center conducted focus groups with black Milwaukee high school juniors in 2006 to determine why few blacks become physicians.

When asked about barriers to going to medical school and becoming physicians, students cited financial constraints; lack of knowledge about the field of medicine; little or no encouragement from family or school staff; negative views from peers when excelling academically; lack of black role models in the community and on television; racism in medicine; and interest in more appealing, easier alternatives for earning money. Researchers concluded, "Exposure at a young age to role models and to medicine as a profession might increase the number" of black physicians (Rao/Flores, JNMA, September 2007).

Reprinted with permission from You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.