I Can't Breathe: The Continued Disproportionate Exclusion of Black Physicians in the United States Radiation Oncology Workforce

Curtiland Deville, Ian Cruickshank, Christina H. Chapman, Wei Ting Hwang, Rhea Wyse, Awad A. Ahmed, Karen M. Winkfield, Charles R. Thomas, Iris C. Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose: Black physicians remain disproportionately underrepresented in certain medical specialties, yet comprehensive assessments in radiation oncology (RO) are lacking. Our purpose was to report current and historical representation trends for Black physicians in the US RO workforce. Methods and Materials: Public registries were used to assess significant differences in 2016 representation for US vs RO Black academic full-time faculty, residents, and applicants. Historical changes from 1970 to 2016 were reported descriptively. Linear regression was used to assess significant changes for Black residents and faculty from 1995 to 2016. Results: In 2016, Black people represented 3.2% vs 1.5% (P < .001), 5.6% vs 3.2% (P = .005), and 6.5% vs 5.4% (P =. 352) of US vs RO faculty, residents, and applicants, respectively. Although RO residents nearly doubled from 374 (1974) to 720 (2016), Black residents peaked at 31 in 1984 (5.9%; 31 of 522) and fell to 23 (3.2%; 23 of 720) in 2016 across 91 accredited programs; Black US graduate medical education trainees nearly doubled over the same period: 3506 (1984) to 6905 (2016). From 1995 to 2016, Black US resident representation significantly increased by 0.03%/y, but decreased significantly in RO by –0.20%/y before 2006 and did not change significantly thereafter. Over the same period, Black US faculty representation significantly increased by 0.02%/y, whereas Black RO faculty significantly increased by 0.07%/y before 2006, then decreased significantly by –0.16%/y thereafter. The number of Black RO faculty peaked at 37 in 2006 (3.1%; 37 of 1203) and was 27 (1.5%; 27 of 1769) in 2016, despite the nearly 1.5-fold increase in the number of both RO faculty and Black US faculty overall (4169 in 2006 and 6047 in 2016) during that period. Conclusions: Black physicians remain disproportionately underrepresented in RO despite an increasing available pipeline in the US physician workforce. Deliberate efforts to understand barriers to specialty training and inclusion, along with evidence-based targeted interventions to overcome them, are needed to ensure diversification of the RO physician workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)856-863
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 15 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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