We investigated whether physician race and ethnicity were associated with burnout among a nationally representative sample of family physicians.
We undertook a cross-sectional observational study using survey data from 1,510 American Board of Family Medicine recertification applicants in 2017 and 1,586 respondents to the 2017 National Graduate Survey. Of the 3,096 total family physicians, 450 (15%) were from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine. We used structural equation models to test the effects of underrepresented status on single-item measures of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization.
Family physicians underrepresented in medicine were significantly less likely than their non-underrepresented counterparts to report emotional exhaustion (adjusted odds ratio = 0.82; 95% CI, 0.69-0.99; total effect) and depersonalization (adjusted odds ratio = 0.54; 95% CI, 0.41-0.71; total effect). The underrepresented physicians were more likely than non-underrepresented peers to practice in more racially and ethnically diverse counties and less likely to practice obstetrics, both of which partly mediated the protective effect of underrepresented status on depersonalization.
Although factors such as racism might be expected to adversely affect the well-being of underrepresented clinicians, underrepresented family physicians reported a lower frequency of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. The mediating protective effect of working in more racially and ethnically diverse counties is consistent with evidence of the beneficial effect of cultural diversity on health outcomes for minorities. Because physician burnout is a known predictor of job turnover and may also be associated with poorer quality of care, the lower burnout observed among underrepresented family physicians may be an asset for the health care system as a whole.

© 2021 Annals of Family Medicine, Inc.