ACC Professional Life Survey Analysis Shows More Work Needed to Combat Discrimination, Inequity in CV Workforce

Underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in the cardiovascular workforce continue to experience a lack of representation and face discrimination, inequitable job negotiations and burnout in their professional lives, according to a new analysis of ACC’s 2015 Professional Life Survey, published Oct. 18 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

In the new analysis of ACC’s third decennial Professional Life Survey – conducted by ACC’s Women in Cardiology Section and on behalf of the ACC Diversity and Inclusion Task Force – the researchers specifically looked at the underrepresented racial and ethnic minority (URM) respondents – those identifying as Black, Hispanic or Native American – to assess career satisfaction and advancement, personal and family issues, discrimination, mentoring, job negotiations and burnout rates compared with the other racial and ethnic groups. Of all the survey respondents, 1,447 identified as White, 564 as Asian or Pacific Islander, 37 as multiracial and 197 as URMs.  

Results showed that over 91% of URM respondents were satisfied with their career and felt their level of advancement and career opportunities were similar to their peers. Along the same lines, 85% of URMs were satisfied with their family lives outside of work. These results are at odds with previous research and data showing URMs are at a disadvantage for job and financial advancement. The researchers said that prior studies have focused on advancement and leadership in academic settings, whereas this study included cardiologists in private practice and academics who may have different experiences.

However, over half (52.3%) of URMs reported experiencing discrimination, compared with 36.4% of White respondents. Women of all racial and ethnic groups were more likely than men to report discrimination (57-69.2% vs. 13.9-44.6%, respectively). When broken down, men were more likely to report race and religion-based discrimination, whereas nearly all women reported gender discrimination, and URM women additionally reported race-based discrimination in the workplace.

Compared with White cardiologists, URM cardiologists were less likely to negotiate or prioritize salary, benefits and work hours in their first job (White cardiologists reported 20.6%, 23.3%, 31.3% in each category respectively, vs. 13.6%, 10.9%, 19.3% respectively from URM cardiologists). As their careers advanced, URMs placed more emphasis on salary, benefits and work hours compared with White cardiologists, which according to researchers is potentially a marker that URMs are placed at a disadvantage in these categories at the start of the careers and showcasing there is a greater need to overcome systemic barriers.

White cardiologists were more likely than URMs to report higher rates of burnout, however URMs experienced more isolation and non-inclusive work environments. The researchers said greater learned resiliency over their lifetime from URMs may contribute toward reporting lower rates of burnout.

The authors offered four recommendations for professional organizations and health systems based on their findings:

  • Collect gender and racial and ethnic identities of members using classifications similar to the 2020 U.S. Census
  • Partner with racial and ethnic-specific professional organizations to develop and implement diversity and inclusion efforts
  • Implement bias and antiracism training among leaders
  • Develop leadership pathways for women and URM members

“This particular group has never been singled out in analyzing the data from the 2015 Professional Life Survey, and the results are very revealing about how much work there is still left to do,” said Kevin Thomas, MD, FACC, lead author of the study. “Putting into place methods to support those who are underrepresented in medicine is critical moving forward.”

Clinical Topics: Cardiovascular Care Team

Keywords: Private Practice, Cardiology, Hispanic Americans, Medicine, Burnout, Psychological, Continental Population Groups, Minority Groups, American Natives, African Americans, Sexism, Job Satisfaction, Leadership, Censuses, Cardiologists


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