Pursuing a Career in Academic Surgery Among African American Medical Students

Abstract [from journal]

Background: There are few African American students in medical school, and even fewer are choosing academic surgical careers. The objective of this study is to provide insight into what barriers URM students perceive when considering a career in academic surgery.

Methods: This qualitative, descriptive study was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania. Sixteen African American students with an interest in surgery were recruited to participate in the study. The outcomes reported are themes of how participants perceive the challenges of pursuing an academic surgical career.

Results: Barriers to pursuing a career in academic surgery cited by students included lifestyle concerns, financial pressures, having to work in a predominantly white environment, lack of mentorship, feelings of having to prove oneself, stressful environments and concerns of being a minority female in surgery.

Conclusions: These study findings indicate that the persistent dearth of African-Americans in academic surgery is likely multi-factorial. Some ways surgical leadership can begin addressing these issues is through establishment of formal mentorship programs, ensuring non-discriminatory recruiting processes, having explicit goals of improving diversity and supporting pipeline programs.