Diversity in gastroenterology: 5 key points on today & the future

Diversity among physicians is lacking, and the same is true for gastroenterologists, according to an American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy report.

Here are five things to know about diversity in gastroenterology:

1. Hispanics, African Americans and American Indians and/or Alaskan Natives make up less than 10 percent of the practicing gastroenterologists; only 13 percent of gastroenterologists in the United States are women. The racial breakdown is as follows:

• Caucasian: 59 percent
• Asian: 27 percent
• Hispanic: 5 percent
• Africana American: 4 percent
• Other: 9 percent

2. There has been little demographic change among gastroenterologists in the last decade. There have been small improvements to increase the diversity among gastroenterology fellowship programs in recent years, but the report cites more work needs to be done.

3. A more diverse gastroenterology workforce could result in several benefits:

• Strengthening provider-patient communication and relationships
• Enhancing patient compliance with the provider's recommendations
• Improving healthcare outcomes among patients of different backgrounds

ASGE surveyed members about their knowledge on the Diversity Committee and patient resources geared toward minorities and women. Few knew about the guidelines on racial and/or ethnic issues in endoscopy and issues for pregnant and/or lactating women.

4. Studies show medical students attending allopathic medicine schools with a racially and ethnically diverse student body are more prepared to care for minority populations, and minority physicians are more willing to practice in underserved communities, according to the report. Diversity can also impact the patient-physician relationship, as patients may prefer a physician with a similar racial or ethnic background.

5. There is little education or training in the United States, or among gastroenterology fellows, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender healthcare issues. There is not much information about LGBT GI providers and patients with GI disease. "We believe the ASGE can and should become a leader in this area," the report authors wrote. Steps to improve in LGBT care include:

• Better understanding the LGBT membership
• Develop and implement programs for LGBT-related GI issues
• Create networking opportunities for LGBT member professional development
• Advocate for research in LGBT-related GI and provider issues

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