The Young Physicians Initiative: Increasing Diversity in Medicine
Female physicians are crucial members of the physician workforce; yet in 2020, only 36.7% of practicing physicians and 43.4% of academic faculty were female1,2. The discrepancy is even more shocking in cardiology, a specialty where only 14.9% of physicians are female3. The "leaky pipeline" concept suggests that at multiple points along the path to becoming a physician, personal and societal barriers cause female aspiring medical students to "leak out of the pipeline" and choose alternative careers.
Research investigating STEM careers shows that representation, perceived ability and a sense of belonging are some of the most important deciding factors motivating young women4; however, finding all these factors can be challenging for young students. For example, women may be significantly challenged in finding mentorship— of all STEM doctorates holding academic positions at universities and four-year colleges, only 37.7% are female5. Minority women have even less representation, as only 10.7% of these same academic positions are held by Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx or Indigenous individuals5.
To support students from gender, socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in medicine, an immigrant refugee cardiology fellow created the Young Physicians Initiative (YPI) in 2016. The organization is an affiliate of the 501(c)3 non-profit organization U-Beyond Mentorship and is largely supported by the Georgia ACC Chapter.
Throughout the academic school year, YPI hosts after-school programs at seven high schools and six colleges around Atlanta, GA. These sessions are intended for participants who would otherwise have limited exposure to the medical profession. Volunteer medical students present medical cases and perform application workshops, with the goal of fostering interest and stimulating discussions about participants' career goals. Occasionally, healthcare workers attend to share their experiences and career pathways. Since 2017, 85.1% of high school and 79.8% of college participants identified as female.
Each year, YPI hosts the annual Doctor for a Day (D4AD) conference, which aims to help aspiring medical students find mentors and network with medical students and faculty. Led by more than 50 volunteer medical students and physicians from across the state of Georgia, the event is filled with medical case-based discussions, application workshops, faculty lectures, and breakout networking sessions. Over the last three years, a combined 325 participants have attended, 73.6% of which were female. An exit survey found that most of attendees found the conference to be "extremely helpful" in providing guidance on the process of becoming a doctor.
In the last few decades, there has been significant progress towards equal gender representation in medicine. During the 2021-22 U.S. medical school application cycle, females composed about 56% of applicants and matriculants, an increase of 10% from 2012-136. The continued efforts of pipeline programs like YPI will help to sustain these numbers for years to come.
Click here to learn more about YPI.
This article was co-authored by Lindsey Lill and Noah Newman, medical students at Wake Forest School of Medicine.
- Association of American Medical Colleges. 2021 State Physician Workforce Data Report. 2022.
- Yoo A, George BP, Auinger P, Strawderman E, Paul DA. Representation of Women and Underrepresented Groups in US Academic Medicine by Specialty. JAMA Network Open. 2021;4(8): e2123512-e2123512. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.23512
- Association of American Medical Colleges. Active Physicians by Sex and Specialty, 2019. AAMC. Accessed February 2, 2022. https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/workforce/interactive-data/active-physicians-sex-and-specialty-2019
- Prinsley R, Beavis AS, Clifford-Hordacre, N. Busting Myths About Women in STEM. 2016. Occasional Paper Series. Accessed February 3, 2022. https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/sites/default/files/OCS-paper-13.pdf
- National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Table 9-25 Science, engineering, and health doctorate holders employed in universities and 4-year colleges, by broad occupation, sex, race, ethnicity, and faculty rank: 2017. Alexandria, VA: National Science Foundation; 2017.
- Association of American Medical Colleges. A-7.2 Applicants, First-Time Applicants, Acceptees, and Matriculants to U.S. Medical Schools by Sex, 2012-2013 through 2021-2022. 2022