How Do Disparities in the Physician Workforce Affect Patients?

Supporting URM Physicians

Susan Taylor, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, agreed with the findings of the review although she was uninvolved with the writing of the piece. She noted that the article “covers an important and often neglected topic (although physician burnout is now popular).”

Dr Taylor is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Skin of Color Society and the Skin-of-Color clinic at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. Her participation in both of these serves as part of a larger process to increase diversity in dermatology, a goal that is particularly important to Dr Taylor, given that she has encountered disparities in her own medical practice.

“Spending more time with my patients, although rewarding, did equate to salary inequities and attempting to serve the underserved can be endless, with long hours and burnout.”

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Dr Taylor states that to address these disparities, the healthcare system needs to involve more URM students across all specialties, particularly those in which there is a drastic underrepresentation of certain racial or ethnic groups.

Additionally, Dr Taylor highlights the cost of medical school as a significant obstacle for many URM students in deciding to pursue a career in healthcare. “Medical education should also be made more affordable for the URM students, and there should be increased support for medical schools with a high percentage of black students, such as Meharry Medical College in Nashville and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta,” she said.

Unlike Dr Silver, Dr Taylor regards increased mentoring for URM students to be a potential strategy in addressing physician workplace disparities. “I think that mentors and sponsors are critically important as they can help them [URM students] with social capital” as well as “promote and pave the way for younger physicians.”

Dr Silver also noted that concerns about patient care “should not be the only justification for treating the physician workforce fairly.” While patient care is “certainly important, I think we need to treat people in the workforce well and fairly, regardless of how it affect patients, because it is important ethically, financially, and for all other kinds of reasons,” she emphasized.


1. Silver JK, Bean AC, Slocum C, et al. Physician workforce disparities and patient care: a narrative review. Health Equity. 2019;3(1):360-377.

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4. Eickmeyer SM, Do KD, Kirschner KL, et al. North American medical schools’ experience with and approaches to the needs of students with physical and sensory disabilities. Acad Med. 2012;87:567-573.

5. Rabatin J, Williams E, Baier Manwell L, et al. Predictors and outcomes of burnout in primary care physicians. J Prim Care Community Health. 2016;7:41-43.

6. Spector ND, Asante PA, Marcelin JR, et al. Women in pediatrics: progress, barriers, and opportunities for equity, diversity, and inclusion [published online September 23, 2019]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2019-2149

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag