Background: Plastic surgery has been dedicated to advancing academic surgery in education, research, innovation, and patient care. Thus, as U.S. health care disparities persist, it would be befitting for plastic surgery to assume the lead in alleviating these disparities. As part of a multifaceted approach to ameliorate health care disparities, increasing diversity in the health care workforce will be imperative. Investigating the demographics of the U.S. plastic surgery residents and faculty can bring attention to a deficit that, if corrected, could benefit the field and improve the entire health care system.
Methods: Medical students, plastic surgery residents/fellows, and plastic surgery faculty demographic information from 1966 to 2006 was analyzed from the Association of American Medical Colleges' data files.
Results: Caucasians encompass 68.7 percent of U.S. plastic surgery residents/fellows, while Asian-, African-, and Latino-Americans encompass 20.9, 3.7, and 6.2 percent, respectively. Caucasians comprise 74.9 percent of academic plastic surgeons, while Asian-, African-, and Latino-Americans comprise 10.9, 1.4, and 3.6 percent, respectively. Caucasians constitute 82.0 percent of tenured full professors, while Asian-, African-, and Latino-Americans constitute 4.9, 1.6, and 4.9 percent, respectively. In 2004, African-Americans and Latino-Americans comprised 3.6 percent and 5.7 percent of all U.S. plastic surgeons, but only 1.5 percent and 4.9 percent of plastic academicians, respectively.
Conclusions: Over the last 40 years, plastic surgery has been ineffective in adequately increasing the number of minority residents and faculty. Expanding the number of minority academic plastic surgeons could establish a health care environment more accommodating to minority patients, increase studies highlighting minority health needs, and provide additional role models and mentors.