Diversity in the Gastroenterology Workforce and its Implications for Patients

As the US population has become more diverse, the medical community has advocated for students, faculty, and curricula to reflect these changes. Understanding and addressing a patient’s culture and socioeconomic situation is vital to their well-being, and physicians who share in the cultural backgrounds and lived experiences of their patients are more likely to bring this insight and understanding to medicine.1 Yet over the last 2 decades, diversity among medical faculty is largely unchanged. One author recently wrote that students who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) would be hard-pressed to find role models that look like them, as these populations are underrepresented among medical faculty.2-4

In 2020, the upsurge of the Black Lives Matter movement combined with the COVID-19 pandemic’s exposure of health disparities prompted society to better acknowledge socioeconomic inequalities and health organizations to revisit these issues.5,6 The AGA has introduced many crucial initiatives in collaboration with its Diversity Committee, including the AGA Equity Project – a multiyear strategic plan designed to: eliminate health disparities and inequities in access, support GI research that aligns with the realities of multicultural patient populations, and educate AGA members and staff about unconscious bias.7

Further diversification of the gastroenterology workforce will ultimately benefit all patients – perhaps most notably patients from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences. Diagnosis and treatment outcomes in multiple digestive-tract diseases are disparate across different races and ethnicities. The literature has demonstrated that patients are more comfortable discussing sensitive health issues and undergoing procedures in the care of doctors with whom they share a similar cultural background.8,9


  • Within US medical schools, the proportion of racially/ethnically underrepresented students has increased at a minimal pace since the early 2000s.3,10-12

  • Lack of cultural training may lead to poor communication and less favorable outcomes for diverse patients. A 14-year study found that White patients received significantly more gastroenterology consults—and ultimately, fewer procedures—than their Hispanic, Black, and Asian counterparts.

    aHighly significant, P < .001

  • To recruit a more diverse group of students to enter the future physician workforce (including in gastroenterology), the University of Maryland School of Medicine implemented a multipronged approach in 2018 to mitigate bias and optimize equity in the selection process.



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