Background: Although the U.S. population is increasingly diverse, the field of orthopaedic surgery has historically been less diverse. The purpose of this study was to quantify the representation of racial and ethnic minorities among orthopaedic surgery residents compared with those in other fields of medicine and to determine how these levels of diversity have changed over time.
Methods: We determined the representation of minorities among residents in orthopaedic surgery and in other fields by analyzing the Graduate Medical Education reports published annually by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which provided data for African-Americans from 1968 to 2008, Hispanics from 1990 to 2008, Asians from 1995 to 2008, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders from 2001 to 2008.
Results: During the 1990s and 2000s, representation among orthopaedic residents increased rapidly for Asians (+4.53% per decade, p < 0.0001) and gradually for Hispanics (+1.37% per decade, p < 0.0001) and African-Americans (+0.68% per decade, p = 0.0003). Total minority representation in orthopaedics averaged 20.2% during the most recent years studied (2001 to 2008), including 11.7% for Asians, 4.0% for African-Americans, 3.8% for Hispanics, 0.4% for American Indians/Alaskan Natives, and 0.3% for Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders. However, orthopaedic surgery was significantly less diverse than all of the other residencies examined during this time period (p < 0.001). This was due primarily to the lower representation of Hispanics and Asians in orthopaedic surgery than in any of the other fields of medicine.
Conclusions: Minority representation in orthopaedic residency programs has increased over time for Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans. In spite of these gains, orthopaedic surgery has remained the least diverse of the specialty training programs considered in this study. While further efforts are needed to determine the factors underlying this lack of representation, we suggest a series of interventions that can be expected to enhance diversity in orthopaedic residencies as well as in the profession as a whole.