Studies show that patients are more likely to trust healthcare physicians with whom they share similar ethnic backgrounds and cultural experiences.
Minority underrepresentation is especially pronounced in ophthalmology. Just six percent of practicing ophthalmologists and eight percent of ophthalmology residents identify as African American/black, Native American, or Hispanic, compared to roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population.
A novel effort at the Kellogg Eye Center is working to close the gap. The Mentorship-led Pipeline Program, part of Kellogg’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative, combines peer relationships, clinical experience, skill building and social events to encourage underrepresented medical students to explore careers in ophthalmology. The program is unique because it pairs incoming medical students with first-year ophthalmology residents.
“The idea is to expose medical students to ophthalmology early in their studies,” explains clinical assistant professor Ariane Kaplan, MD, who, as part of a DEI committee that includes department faculty, medical students and staff, oversees the program. “If they decide to pursue ophthalmology, their mentors can continue supporting them all the way through the very competitive and stressful process of applying for residency.”