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Original Investigation
December 9, 2021

Diversity Trends by Sex and Underrepresented in Medicine Status Among US Radiation and Medical Oncology Faculty Over 5 Decades

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston
  • 2Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 3Department of Radiation Oncology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia
JAMA Oncol. 2022;8(2):221-229. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2021.6011
Key Points

Question  How has the composition (by sex and by race and ethnicity) of US radiation oncology (RO) and medical oncology (MO) academic departments’ workforces evolved over time?

Findings  This cross-sectional study assessed demographic trends among RO and MO academic departments during the past 5 decades. Sex and racial and ethnic diversity of RO and MO faculty has increased over time but has not kept pace with that of the US population, particularly with respect to individuals designated as underrepresented in medicine (URM).

Meaning  Efforts to recruit and retain URM individuals among academic oncology departments are critical to maintain a diverse workforce and training environment; the increase in women faculty in both specialties may inform measures to achieve similar progress among URM faculty.

Abstract

Importance  It remains unclear how the historical exclusion of women and racial and ethnic minority groups from medical training, and therefore the oncologic subspecialties, has contributed to rates of faculty diversity among oncology departments over time. Oncologic faculty diversity is an important initiative to help improve care and address health disparities for an increasingly diverse US population with cancer.

Objectives  To report trends in academic faculty representation by sex and by race and ethnicity for radiation oncology (RO) and medical oncology (MO) departments and to describe comparisons with the general US population, medical students, RO and MO trainees, clinical department chairs, and faculty in other departments.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cross-sectional analysis used data from the Association of American Medical Colleges to analyze trends by sex and by race and ethnicity among full-time US faculty in RO and MO departments from 1970 through 2019. Data were analyzed between October 2020 and April 2021.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Proportions of women and individuals from underrepresented in medicine (URM) racial and ethnic groups (Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous individuals) were calculated among RO and MO academic departments; trends were analyzed over 5 decades. These proportions were compared with cohorts already described. In addition, proportions of women and URM individuals were calculated by faculty rank among RO and MO departments.

Results  In 1970, there were 119 total faculty in RO (10 women [8.4%] and 2 URM [1.7%]) and 87 total faculty in MO (11 women [12.6%] and 7 URM [8.0%]). In 2019, there were 2115 total faculty in RO (615 women [29.1%] and 108 URM [5.1%]) and 819 total faculty in MO (312 women [38.1%] and 47 URM [5.7%]). Total faculty numbers increased over time in both RO and MO. Faculty representation of URM women proportionally increased by 0.1% per decade in both RO (95% CI, 0.005%-0.110%; P <. 001 for trend) and MO (95% CI, −0.03% to 0.16%; P = .06 for trend) compared with non-URM women faculty, which increased by 0.4% (95% CI, 0.25%-0.80%) per decade in RO and 0.7% (95% CI, 0.47%-0.87%) per decade in MO (P < .001 for trend for both). Faculty representation of URM men did not significantly change for RO (0.03% per decade [95% CI, −0.008% to 0.065%]; P = .09 for trend) or MO (0.003% per decade [95% CI, −0.13% to 0.14%]; P = .94 for trend). Representation of both women and URM individuals among both specialties was lower than their representation in the US population in both 2009 and 2019. Across all cohorts studied, RO faculty had the lowest URM representation in 2019 at 5.1%. At every rank in 2019, the number of total URM faculty represented among both MO and RO remained low (MO: instructor, 2 of 44 [5%]; assistant professor, 18 of 274 [7%]; associate professor, 13 of 177 [7%]; full professor, 13 of 276 [5%]; and RO: instructor, 9 of 147 [6%]; assistant professor, 57 of 927 [6%]; associate professor, 20 of 510 [4%]; full professor, 18 of 452 [4%]).

Conclusions and Relevance  This cross-sectional study suggests that RO and MO academic faculty have increased the representation of women over time, while URM representation has lagged. The URM trends over time need further investigation to inform strategies to improve URM representation in RO and MO.

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