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Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Groups

“There is a national need for minority scientists in the fields of biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and health services research.”-- Public Law 106-525, Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000.

The National Science Foundation reports that African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Hispanics (or Latinos), Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are underrepresented at many career stages in health-related sciences on a national basis. (See the report Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, 2015). Individuals from these groups are under-represented when compared to their age-cohorts in science-baccalaureate earners, among science-PhD earners, and in the biomedical workforce.

In 2013, only 6 percent of science and engineering doctorate holders employed as full-time, full professors at all institutions were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and at Research Intensive institutions, this proportion falls to only four percent. Moreover, among science and engineering doctorate holders with full-time faculty employment at any four-year institution, those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups were less likely to receive federal grants or contracts than their white counterparts.

Underrepresentation is also apparent among physicians and physician-scientists in the biomedical workforce. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that nationally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups comprise about nine percent of the US physician workforce; this poses important concerns for effective health care delivery. Among those with a medical degree, only about two percent report a career in research, and among MDs (or MD-PhDs) with NIH research grants, about seven percent were awarded to individuals from these underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

Data on overall participation of individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in biotechnology, contract research organizations and pharmaceutical industry career sectors is not readily available. Job growth in these areas is strong, and several companies report a workforce with significant diversity, although there may be little diversity at the higher echelons of pharmaceutical firms (see the National Diversity Council’s “Leading While Diverse” report, below).

Selected Reports

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