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Program to Increase Diversity

CU School of Medicine

11/11/2015

AURORA, Colo. (Nov. 11, 2015) – Members of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine have developed a multifaceted effort aimed at increasing diversity among medical residents. 

The details of the program and the results of a pilot intervention are outlined in an article published Tuesday in Academic Medicine, the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. 

In academic year 2012-2013, the CU Department of Emergency Medicine and the Denver Health Residency in Emergency Medicine program formed a diversity committee to increase the number of residency candidates from minorities who interviewed and matched to the residency program.  

Specific actions taken by the committee included: 

  • Scholarship-based externships providing up to $1,500 for underrepresented minority medical students to help cover the costs of travel and housing expenses during their rotation. 
  • A funded second-look program to bring nine students back to Colorado to look again at the residency program. By funding up to a total $11,090 for flights and hotels for those students, they could participate in two days of activities including introductions to underrepresented minority faculty members, presentations regarding global health programs, procedure labs and events with current residents and other health care community representatives. 
  • Increasing the involvement of underrepresented faculty in recruitment efforts, including writing letters of evaluation for the participants in the externships and follow-up phone calls. 

One year later, the percentage of underrepresented minority candidates interviewed for the residency program doubled. And in academic year 2013-14, 23.5 percent of all new residents in the program were from underrepresented minorities, compared with 5.6 percent the previous year. 

“This program is central to who we are as a specialty,” said Richard Zane, MD, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the CU School of Medicine. “Addressing disparities in healthcare providers is just one of the many ways we can begin to address disparities in the provision of healthcare.” 

One of the paper’s authors, Jeffrey Druck, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine and the associate residency director of the Denver Health Residency in Emergency Medicine, said there is a critical need increase the diversity of physicians in the emergency department. 

“Emergency departments provide care to the most diverse and resource-poor patient populations, yet the discipline of emergency medicine is lagging behind in training a diverse physician workforce,” Druck said.  

According to a recent study, 17 percent to 23 percent of obstetrics-gynecology, family medicine and pediatric physicians are underrepresented minorities, compared with 13 percent of emergency medicine physicians. 

The work for this pilot intervention was funded by the National Association of Health Service Executives and Elbra Wedgeworth, chief of government and community relations at Denver Health, in additional to departmental funding from the emergency departments at Denver Health and the CU School of Medicine. 

Druck and the other eight authors listed on the article conclude that additional studies are needed to determine whether the results of this pilot intervention are sustainable and whether they can be used in other residency programs in emergency medicine. They also note that the effort “may be a promising approach for increasing diversity in emergency medicine and other residencies, so that our educational, patient care, and community service goals can be achieved. 

The article is posted online at  http://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/Abstract/publishahead/Increasing_Resident_Diversity_in_an_Emergency.98648.aspx