Strategies to Diversify Rheumatology Care

In an article in Arthritis & Rheumatology, Foundation staff and DEI experts present recommendations to increase diversity in the rheumatology workforce.

By Vandana Suresh | March 14, 2024

The journal Arthritis & Rheumatology on Jan. 19, 2024, published “Improving Health Equity in Rheumatology Through Workforce Diversification and Support for Health Equity Research and Education,” authored by Arthritis Foundation staff members and experts in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) research or medical education. This peer-reviewed paper includes strategies for recruiting, retaining and training medical students from historically underrepresented communities as a way of tackling the ongoing shortage and lack of diversity in the rheumatology workforce.

The number of practicing rheumatologists cannot meet the overwhelming demand for rheumatology care, and this gap is expected to widen in the next decade. This shortage amplifies the lack of diversity in medical professionals in this workforce. Consequently, the racial and ethnic demographics of rheumatology providers do not reflect that of the patient population. This mismatch needs to be addressed, because having providers representative of their communities leads to better patient outcomes.

Recognizing this pressing problem, the Arthritis Foundation hosted two DEI Science summits that brought together trainees and practitioners from historically underrepresented groups, people with arthritis and their families, medical school educators, research scientists, and DEI experts to discuss challenges and opportunities for diversifying the rheumatology workforce. 

The lessons from the two summits are presented as strategies and best practices for medical institutions interested in creating a sustainable pathway for medical trainees from historically underrepresented communities. These strategies include:
  1. Long-standing commitment by institutions to measure the success of their DEI efforts over time with suitable tracking metrics. 
  2. Establishing regional mentoring programs to promote representation. 
  3. Enhancing or developing new cultural sensitivity training courses for all residents and fellows with hands-on experiences with underserved populations. 
  4. Investing in curricula geared toward recruiting and retaining residents from historically underrepresented groups. 

“One of the Arthritis Foundation’s main priorities is to increase diversity in health care providers who treat arthritis,” says Victoria Fung, senior vice president of mission and strategic initiatives. “We are delighted that through our manuscript, our recommendations for diversifying the workforce will reach a broad rheumatology audience who share our commitment toward attracting, retaining and cultivating diverse medical talent at their institution.”

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