“Dadadada, but…”

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 at 9:37 am

A friend of mine is currently on her rounds–well interviewing rounds for optometry schools. In the past couple of days, she has traveled from Birmingham, Alabama to Bloomington, Indiana. Following her interviews, she would give me a status of how they went—“dadadada, but…” That but was “I was the only minority in the room.” I asked her, where are the minorities? She educated me on how many minorities are actually applying to optometry schools, but her answer was, “I don’t know why minorities are so underrepresented. What do you think?” I couldn’t answer the question.

But I went on a journey through statistics…According to the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, (in looking at advanced degrees) of all Master’s degrees earned in 1996-97 6.8 percent were earned by African Americans, 3.7 percent were earned by Hispanics, 4.5 percent were earned by Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 0.5 percent were earned by American Indian/Alaska Native. Some ten years later, the numbers may have improved, but not by much. Africans Americans jumped to 10.3 percent, Hispanics earned 5.8 percent, Asian/Pacific Islanders earned 6 percent, while American Indian/Alaska Native earned 0.6 percent of Master’s degrees. And the numbers for professional degrees awarded to minorities are grimmer.

According to “One of the most pressing health care challenges facing the nation is the critical need for more minority physicians. In the next 15 years, the nation is projected to confront an overall shortage of physicians, but the need is, and will continue to be, particularly great for minority physicians.” Furthermore, in 2004 African American Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans made up 25 percent of the population but only 6 percent of practicing doctors were likely to come from these ethnic groups.

The healthcare debates have touched on access to healthcare, and this is a good discussion/debate to have. At the same time, minorities are making up a very small number of those with advanced degrees and of those practicing medicine—this too must be added to the discussion. Whether it’s cultural/social barriers, lack of access, education, whatever the case may be, we must all get to the root of why minorities are not becoming doctors, why minorities are not earning advanced degrees—where are the minorities?


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