The association among specialty, race, ethnicity, and practice location among California physicians in diverse specialties

J Natl Med Assoc. 2012 Jan-Feb;104(1-2):46-52. doi: 10.1016/s0027-9684(15)30126-7.


Background: Minority physicians are more likely than their counterparts to work in underserved communities and care for minority, poor, and uninsured patients, but much of this research has examined primary care physicians alone. Few have investigated whether non-primary care specialists of minority backgrounds are more likely to serve the underserved than nonminority specialists.

Objective: We examined whether underrepresented minority (URM) physicians from a wide variety of specialties are more likely than non-URM physicians to practice in underserved communities.

Methods: Using California Medical Board Physician Licensure Survey (2007) data for 48388 physicians, we geo-coded practice zip codes to medically underserved areas (MUAs) and primary care health professional shortage areas (HPSAs). Logistic regression models adjusting for age, gender, specialty, and other characteristics were used to explore associations with race, ethnicity, specialty, and designated underserved areas.

Results: We found that African American, Latino, and Pacific Islanders were more likely to work in MUAs and HPSAs than were white physicians (adjusted odds ratio, 1.22-2.25; p < .05). Similar patterns of practice in MUAs and HPSAs by physician race and ethnicity were found when performing the analyses separately among primary care physicians and physicians in non-primary care specialties.

Conclusion: In summary, our study underscores the importance of underrepresented minority physicians in all specialties for the physician workforce needs of disadvantaged communities. To improve health care for underserved communities, continued efforts to increase physician diversity are essential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area*
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional Practice Location / statistics & numerical data*