How Did Black and Hispanic Orthopaedic Applicants and Residents Compare to General Surgery Between 2015 and 2022?

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Clinical orthopaedics and related research


BACKGROUND: Despite the heavy demand for and knowledge of the benefits of diversity, there is a persistent lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in orthopaedic surgery. Since the implementation of diversity initiatives, data have shown that general surgery has been one of the top competitive surgical fields and has demonstrated growth in racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, making general surgery a good point of reference and comparison when analyzing racial and ethnic growth in orthopaedic surgery.

QUESTIONS/PURPOSES: (1) What were the growth rates for Black and Hispanic orthopaedic residency applicants and residents between 2015 and 2022? (2) How did the growth rates of Black and Hispanic individuals in orthopaedic surgery compare with those of general surgery? (3) How did applicant recruitment and resident acceptance differ between Black and Hispanic people in orthopaedic surgery?

METHODS: Applicant data were obtained from historical specialty-specific data from the Association of American Medical Colleges Electronic Residency Application Service Statistics database between 2018 and 2022, and resident data were obtained from the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education Data Resource Book between 2015 and 2021. Between 2018 and 2022, the number of residency applicants totaled 216,677, with 17,912 Black residency applicants and 20,413 Hispanic residency applicants. Between 2015 and 2021, the number of active residents totaled 977,877, with 48,600 Black residents and 62,605 Hispanic residents. Because the applicant and resident data do not overlap throughout all years of observation, a sensitivity analysis of overlapping years (between 2018 and 2021) was conducted to ensure observed trends were consistent and valid throughout the study. All datasets obtained were used to establish the different racial and ethnic proportions of Black and Hispanic residency applicants and residents in four nonsurgical primary care specialties and four surgical subspecialties. A reference slope was created using data from the Association of American Medical Colleges and Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education to represent the growth rate for total residency applicants and residents, independently, across all residency specialties reported in each database. This slope was used for comparison among the resident and applicant growth rates for all eight selected specialties. Datapoints were placed into a scatterplot with regression lines, using slope equations to depict rate of growth and R2 values to depict linear fit. Applicant growth corresponded to applicant recruitment and resident growth corresponded to resident acceptance. Chi-square tests were used to compare residents and residency applicants for the Black and Hispanic populations, separately. Two-way analysis of variance with a time-by-specialty interaction term (F-test) was conducted to determine differences between growth slopes.

RESULTS: There was no difference in the growth rate of Black orthopaedic surgery applicants between 2018 and 2022, and there was no difference in the growth rate of Hispanic orthopaedic surgery applicants (R2 = 0.43; p = 0.23 and R2 = 0.63; p = 0.11, respectively). However, there was a very slight increase in the growth rate of Black orthopaedic surgery residents between 2015 and 2021, and a very slight increase in the growth rate of Hispanic orthopaedic surgery residents (R2 = 0.73; p = 0.02 and R2 = 0.79; p = 0.01, respectively). There were no differences in orthopaedic and general surgery rates of growth for Black applicants between 2018 and 2022 (0.004 applicants/year versus -0.001 applicants/year; p = 0.22), and no differences were found in orthopaedic and general surgery rates of growth for Black residents between 2015 and 2021 (0.003 residents/year versus 0.002 residents/year; p = 0.59). Likewise, Hispanic orthopaedic applicant growth rates did not differ between 2018 and 2022 from the rates of general surgery (0.004 applicants/year versus 0.005 applicants/year; p = 0.68), and there were no differences in orthopaedic and general surgery rates of growth for Hispanic residents (0.007 residents/year versus 0.01 residents/year; p = 0.35). Furthermore, growth rate comparisons between Black orthopaedic applicants and residents between 2018 and 2021 showed applicant growth was larger than resident growth, illustrating that the recruitment of Black applicants increased slightly more rapidly than resident acceptance. Growth rate comparisons between Hispanic applicants and residents showed a larger rate of resident growth, illustrating Hispanic resident acceptance increased slightly faster than applicant recruitment during that time.

CONCLUSION: We found low acceptance of Black residents compared with the higher recruitment of Black applicants, as well as overall low proportions of Black and Hispanic applicants and residents. Future studies might explore the factors contributing to the higher acceptances of Hispanic orthopaedic residents than Black orthopaedic residents.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: We recommend that more emphasis should be placed on increasing Black and Hispanic representation at the department level to ensure cultural considerations remain at the forefront of applicant recruitment. Internal or external reviews of residency selection processes should be considered, and more immersive, longitudinal orthopaedic surgery clerkships and research mentorship experiences should be targeted toward Black and Hispanic students. Holistic reviews of applications and selection processes should be implemented to produce an increased racially and ethnically diverse applicant pool and a diverse residency work force, and implicit bias training should be implemented to address potential biases and diversity barriers that are present in residency programs and leadership.

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ePub ahead of print