A lack of racial diversity in the healthcare professions is a critical problem demanding "swift, large-scale change to protect the future health of the nation," according to a report by the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce. African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans make up 25% of the U.S. population but account for 6% of the nation's physicians and 9% of its nurses. The disparity contributes to minorities' lower health status and more limited access to care than white Americans, and if trends continue, the healthcare workforce will resemble the population even less in the future, the report said.
The commission was made up of 16 experts on healthcare, business, education and law, including former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan. Established in April 2003, it was convened by Duke University School of Medicine and funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The report makes 37 specific recommendations, including reducing reliance on standardized tests as an admission criteria, granting more scholarships and increasing federal funding for diversity programs in healthcare. Read the report. -- by Tony Fong