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      Addressing disparities in academic medicine: what of the minority tax?

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          The proportion of black, Latino, and Native American faculty in U.S. academic medical centers has remained almost unchanged over the last 20 years. Some authors credit the "minority tax"—the burden of extra responsibilities placed on minority faculty in the name of diversity. This tax is in reality very complex, and a major source of inequity in academic medicine.


          The “minority tax” is better described as an Underrepresented Minority in Medicine (URMM) faculty responsibility disparity. This disparity is evident in many areas: diversity efforts, racism, isolation, mentorship, clinical responsibilities, and promotion.


          The authors examine the components of the URMM responsibility disparity and use information from the medical literature and from human resources to suggest practical steps that can be taken by academic leaders and policymakers to move toward establishing faculty equity and thus increase the numbers of black, Latino, and Native American faculty in academic medicine.

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          Racial and ethnic disparities in faculty promotion in academic medicine.

          Previous studies have suggested that minority medical school faculty are at a disadvantage in promotion opportunities compared with white faculty. To compare promotion rates of minority and white medical school faculty in the United States. Analysis of data from the Association of American Medical Colleges' Faculty Roster System, the official data system for tracking US medical school faculty. A total of 50,145 full-time US medical school faculty who became assistant professors or associate professors between 1980 and 1989. Faculty of historically black and Puerto Rican medical schools were excluded. Attainment of associate or full professorship among assistant professors and full professorship among associate professors by 1997, among white, Asian or Pacific Islander (API), underrepresented minority (URM; including black, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Native American, and Native Alaskan), and other Hispanic faculty. By 1997, 46% of white assistant professors (13,479/28,953) had been promoted, whereas 37% of API (1123/2997; P<.001), 30% of URM (311/1053, P<.001), and 43% of other Hispanic assistant professors (256/598; P =.07) had been promoted. Similarly, by 1997, 50% of white associate professors (7234/14,559) had been promoted, whereas 44% of API (629/1419; P<.001), 36% of URM (101/280; P<.001), and 43% of other Hispanic (122/286; P =.02) associate professors had been promoted. Racial/ethnic disparities in promotion were evident among tenure and nontenure faculty and among faculty who received and did not receive National Institutes of Health research awards. After adjusting for cohort, sex, tenure status, degree, department, medical school type, and receipt of NIH awards, URM faculty remained less likely to be promoted compared with white faculty (relative risk [RR], 0.68 [99% confidence interval CI, 0.59-0.77] for assistant professors and 0.81 [99% CI, 0.65-0.99] for associate professors). API assistant professors also were less likely to be promoted (RR, 0.91 [99% CI, 0.84-0.98]), whereas API associate professors and other Hispanic assistant and associate professors were promoted at comparable rates. Our data indicate that minority faculty are promoted at lower rates compared with white faculty. JAMA. 2000;284:1085-1092
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            The role of cultural diversity climate in recruitment, promotion, and retention of faculty in academic medicine.

            Ethnic diversity among physicians may be linked to improved access and quality of care for minorities. Academic medical institutions are challenged to increase representation of ethnic minorities among health professionals. To explore the perceptions of physician faculty regarding the following: (1) the institution's cultural diversity climate and (2) facilitators and barriers to success and professional satisfaction in academic medicine within this context. Qualitative study using focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Nontenured physicians in the tenure track at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Focus groups and interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim, and reviewed for thematic content in a 3-stage independent review/adjudication process. Study participants included 29 faculty representing 9 clinical departments, 4 career tracks, and 4 ethnic groups. In defining cultural diversity, faculty noted visible (race/ethnicity, foreign-born status, gender) and invisible (religion, sexual orientation) dimensions. They believe visible dimensions provoke bias and cumulative advantages or disadvantages in the workplace. Minority and foreign-born faculty report ethnicity-based disparities in recruitment and subtle manifestations of bias in the promotion process. Minority and majority faculty agree that ethnic differences in prior educational opportunities lead to disparities in exposure to career options, and qualifications for and subsequent recruitment to training programs and faculty positions. Minority faculty also describe structural barriers (poor retention efforts, lack of mentorship) that hinder their success and professional satisfaction after recruitment. To effectively manage the diversity climate, our faculty recommended 4 strategies for improving the psychological climate and structural diversity of the institution. Soliciting input from faculty provides tangible ideas regarding interventions to improve an institution's diversity climate.
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              Race, disadvantage and faculty experiences in academic medicine.

              Despite compelling reasons to draw on the contributions of under-represented minority (URM) faculty members, US medical schools lack these faculty, particularly in leadership and senior roles. The study's purpose was to document URM faculty perceptions and experience of the culture of academic medicine in the US and to raise awareness of obstacles to achieving the goal of having people of color in positions of leadership in academic medicine. The authors conducted a qualitative interview study in 2006-2007 of faculty in five US medical schools chosen for their diverse regional and organizational attributes. Using purposeful sampling of medical faculty, 96 faculty were interviewed from four different career stages (early, plateaued, leaders and left academic medicine) and diverse specialties with an oversampling of URM faculty. We identified patterns and themes emergent in the coded data. Analysis was inductive and data driven. Predominant themes underscored during analyses regarding the experience of URM faculty were: difficulty of cross-cultural relationships; isolation and feeling invisible; lack of mentoring, role models and social capital; disrespect, overt and covert bias/discrimination; different performance expectations related to race/ethnicity; devaluing of research on community health care and health disparities; the unfair burden of being identified with affirmative action and responsibility for diversity efforts; leadership's role in diversity goals; and financial hardship. Achieving an inclusive culture for diverse medical school faculty would help meet the mission of academic medicine to train a physician and research workforce that meets the disparate needs of our multicultural society. Medical school leaders need to value the inclusion of URM faculty. Failure to fully engage the skills and insights of URM faculty impairs our ability to provide the best science, education or medical care.

                Author and article information

                BMC Med Educ
                BMC Med Educ
                BMC Medical Education
                BioMed Central (London )
                1 February 2015
                1 February 2015
                : 15
                [ ]The Center for Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine at The Florida State University College of Medicine, 1115 West Call Street#3210 M, Tallahassee, FL 32306 USA
                [ ]Women’s Studies Research Center, Mailstop 079, Waltham, MA 02454-9110 USA
                © Rodríguez et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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                hispanic, latino, black, underrepresented minority, native american, minority tax


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