Racial health disparities persist despite increased public awareness of systemic racism. Due to the inherent subjectivity of pain perception, assessment and management, physician-patient bias in pain medicine remains widespread. It is broadly accepted that increasing racial diversity in the field of medicine is a critical step towards addressing persistent inequities in patient care. To assess the current racial demographics of the pain medicine pipeline, we conducted a cross-sectional analysis of medical school matriculants and graduates, residents, and pain fellows in 2018. Our results show that the 2018 anesthesiology residency ERAS applicant pool consisted of 46.2% non-Hispanic White, 7.0% non-Hispanic Black and 5.8% Hispanic students. The population of 2018 anesthesiology residents included 63% non-Hispanic White, 6.8% non-Hispanic Black and 5.4% Hispanic persons. Of the total eligible resident pool for pain fellowships (n = 30,415) drawn from core specialties, 44% were non-Hispanic White, 4.9% non-Hispanic Black and 5.1% Hispanic. Similar proportions were observed for pain medicine and regional anesthesia fellows. We briefly discuss the implications of the shortage of non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic representation in pain medicine as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and suggest approaches to improving these disparities.
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