American ophthalmology residency programs rank last in terms of diversity

University of California, Davis Health Study1 In terms of the racial and ethnic composition of US residency programs, ophthalmology programs are found to be last in recruiting underrepresented minority groups compared to other specialties.

Parisa Emami-Naeini, MD, MPH, senior study author. Emami-Naeini is an assistant professor at UC Davis Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences.

“Our study shows that the field of ophthalmology does not reflect the diversity of our country,” Emami Naeini said in the statement.

Underrepresented minority groups are defined as racial and ethnic groups in the medical field that are underrepresented in relation to their numbers in the general population.

According to the study, underrepresented minorities made up about 19% of medical school students but only 6.3% of ophthalmology residency programs. Nationally, underrepresented minorities make up only 7.2% of practicing ophthalmologists in the United States.


According to the university, the researchers used a . file data resource book posted by Accreditation Council for Higher Medical Education. They obtained demographic data on residents in training across 18 different majors in accredited US residency programs between 2011-2012 and 2019-2020.

The team compared minority groups underrepresented in ophthalmology with those in other specialties and estimated the change in the proportion of underrepresented minorities over time.

Ophthalmology ranked lowest for the minority population. Public health, preventive medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology recorded the highest proportion of underrepresented minority groups.

The researchers note that complicating factors contribute to the disparities among resident ophthalmologists. previous search showed that interest in ophthalmology was low among all medical students and even lower among students of underrepresented minority groups.

Emami Naini notes that most medical students do not learn about ophthalmology until the third or fourth year of school, when they have already made up their minds about another specialty. Other factors that may play a role include individual experience, implicit bias among decision makers in the field, and the lack of diverse racial role models.

Abhijith Atkuru, 3rd year medical student in Eastern Virginia Medical School, is the first author of the study. He worked with Emami-Naeini as a recipient of J. William Kohl Scholarship, MD for Medical Studentswhich awards an award to medical students to study with ophthalmologists at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine.

“While researching this project, I was able to identify and identify disparities in the field of ophthalmology and the urgent need to take action to address them,” Atkuru said in a press release. “I am interested in ophthalmology. Participating in the Kohl summer program and working on various projects has boosted my interest in this field.”

Small but steady increase in diversity

Data from the study shows a very small, but steady 0.24% annual increase in employment of minority residents in ophthalmology between 2011 and 2012 and 2019 to 2020. The researchers note that because racial and ethnic disparities in ophthalmology and medicine are due to many factors An equally multifaceted approach will be needed to address these issues.

They recommend synergy and collaboration between medical schools, large decision-making organizations, and subspecialty associations to recruit more diverse interns.

Emami Nayni participates in American Academy of Ophthalmology Education of ophthalmology and ophthalmology The pipeline program, which assists medical students in underrepresented minority groups to become competitive applicants for residency in ophthalmology.

We know representation is important. Seeing a doctor who looks like you or speaks your language can improve health outcomes and reduce the burden on patients. We hope to be able to attract the interest of more and more diverse students in the field of ophthalmology.”


1. Abhijith Atkuru, MS; Monica K. Ling, Ph.D.; Parisa Emami-Naeini, MD, MPH; Trends in racial diversity among ophthalmological residents in the United States. ophthalmology. Posted August. 957-959. DOI: 10.1016 / j.ophtha.2022.03.020

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