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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • African American;
  • oncologists;
  • mentoring

Abstract

BACKGROUND

In the United States, breast cancer mortality rates are significantly higher among African-American women than among women of other ethnic backgrounds. Research efforts to evaluate the socioeconomic, environmental, biologic, and genetic mechanisms explaining this disparity are needed.

METHODS

Data regarding patterns in the ethnic distribution of physicians and oncologists were accumulated from a review of the literature and by contacting cancer-oriented professional societies. This information was evaluated by participants in a national meeting, “Summit Meeting Evaluating Research on Breast Cancer in African American Women.” Results of the data collection and the conference discussion are summarized.

RESULTS

Ethnic minority specialists are underrepresented in academic medicine in general, and in the field of oncology in particular. This fact is unfortunate because ethnic minority students are more likely to express a commitment to providing care to medically underserved communities and, thus, they need to be better represented in these professions. Correcting these patterns of underrepresentation may favorably influence the design and implementation of culturally and ethnically sensitive research.

CONCLUSIONS

Efforts to improve the ethnic diversity of oncology specialists should begin at the level of recruiting an ethnically diverse premed and medical student population. These recruitment efforts should place an emphasis on the value of mentoring. Cancer 2003;97(1 Suppl):329–34. Published 2003 by the American Cancer Society.

DOI 10.1002/cncr.11027