Disparities in Health Care and Diversity« back

It's our differences that make us wonderful, and gives us the chance to continue to learn and grow as humankind.     

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
---Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 Health Care Disparities

  • The country is becoming more ethnically diverse. Therefore, the country's medical care providers should reflect the changes in the culture of our population.
  • Medical schools must admit, train, and graduate physicians that are capable of providing high-quality, culturally responsive care to all patients. 
    • Nivet, M. Diversity 3.0 A necessary systems upgrade. Academic Medicine 86(12): 1487-9; 2011.

Scarlette Wilson MD

There is increasing need to provide excellent and equitable health care to "vulnerable" (often the poor, underrepresented minorities, or non-English speaking) individuals.  To improve care in underserved areas, need to increase access to physicians in these communities. The recent passage of the Affordable Care Act by the federal government is one method for improving access to medical care.


"The art of thinking independently together" (Malcolm Forbes)

Diversity is important for:

  • Expanding access to health care to underserved communities.  
    • Minorities often return to minority communities to practice.
  • Improving health care delivery to patients of different backgrounds, traditions, cultures, and languages.
    • Patients from diverse cultures may have diverse health beliefs than what is considered the "norm" in the U.S. This may therefore impact how effectively patients understand their medical condition and how to use their medicines.
  • Maximizing utilization of health care services by individuals that may previously have distrusted their physicians due to differences in race, gender, culture
  • Improving health care equity and safety
  • Creating work environments with increased collaboration, innovation, and academic excellence due to exposure to differing ideas

Diversity in Ophthalmology


U.S. 2011 Census (Racial and Gender Make-up)

Racial and Gender Make-up of Ophthalmologists in 2008 (AAMC Data)

  • Minorities make up 35% of the U.S. population, but only 12% of the current medical school graduates
  • Ophthalmology accounts for 2.7% of the current physician workforce (AAMC data, 2008).
  • Within Ophthalmology, there has been slow, but steady increase in the diversification of the workforce, especially with gains in the numbers of Asians and women in practice.
  • However, compared to the U.S. general population, there are proportionately fewer women, blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans within the profession of Ophthalmology.

AAMC logo
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) seeks to close the gap in health disparities by increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities in the health profession, through advocacy and mentoring. For more information, go to



NMA logo

The National Medical Association (NMA) is the oldest minority physician group in the US, with a major focus on eliminating health care disparities experienced by the elderly, poor, and disenfranchised, especially minorities. These groups often experience more severe and difficult to treat disease, that is often diagnosed at late stages. We need to have our new trainees in medicine not only have the knowledge to care for these patients, but also the motivation and compassion to seek out the most effective, evidence-based treatments for the people in our communities. For more information, go to www.nmanet.org or www.ophthalmology.nmanet.org.

  Mildred MG Olivier, MD

Assistant Dean for Diversity and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Chicago, IL
Glaucoma specialist

"People bringing different ideas. . . builds a better healthcare system" 
"We need a workforce that represents our population"


Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD

Vice Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Perelman School of Medicine,
University of Pennsylvania
Visiting Scholar for Health Equity at the AAMC
Glaucoma specialist

"We still have a long ways to go with regards to diversity"
"I'm still excited about being an ophthalmologist. . . . We can make a difference . . . and can give a person the gift of sight."

Edward Cherney, MD

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Nashville TN
Retina Specialist

"Everyone's an individual, not a disease"

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