Ricans, and Native Americans, including American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians). The new AAMC definition takes into account the fact that many other groups, such as subpopulations of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Latinos, are also poorly represented among health professionals, and many in these communities face barriers to accessing appropriate health care.
While the study committee defines URMs broadly, it should be noted that the racial and ethnic groups identified in AAMC’s previous definition of URM groups (e.g., African Americans, some Hispanic/Latino groups, American Indians) are historically underrepresented and face long-standing barriers to greater inclusion among health professionals—including persistent discrimination, educational inequality, and few role models for students of these racial and ethnic groups. The persistent underrepresentation of these groups among health professionals suggests that a sustained emphasis on increasing access to health professions careers among historically underrepresented populations is critically important.
The study committee recognizes that a broad range of health professionals contribute invaluably to the health-care enterprise. These disciplines—including dental hygienists, pharmacists, allied health professionals, physician assistants, nutritionists, occupational therapists, and clinical social workers, among many others—are critically important to ensuring that America’s health-care systems provide the best quality health care, health promotion, and disease prevention services. This study, however, will focus on medicine, nursing, dentistry, and professional psychology. This is not to suggest that diversity is unimportant or has already been achieved in other health professions. Rather, this study is limited in its scope because a comprehensive analysis of all health-related fields is not feasible given the time frame of the current study. Over 15 million Americans work in over two-dozen health-care and health-related occupations and an even greater array of specialties and subspecialties (Matherlee, this volume), making the task of assessing health workforce trends daunting. In addition, medicine, nursing, dentistry, and professional psychology are among the largest health professions, and the availability and concentration of diverse professionals in these fields will therefore have significant implications for health service delivery. Furthermore, more complete data are available from these fields to evaluate minority participation and diversity efforts. It is the study committee’s expectation that strategies adopted to increase diversity in these fields may be applicable, in some cases, to other health professions.