Female and racial/ethnic minority representation in surgical programs continues to trail behind other medical specialties. Various structural and perceived obstacles which contribute to a difficult path for underrepresented minority (URM) trainees have been identified, and efforts to reduce these hurdles are underway. Gaining perspective and insight from current surgical minority trainees may add valuable insight to aid with improving and innovating strategies to recruit and retain URM surgeons.
To characterize how race/ethnicity, cultural background, and gender affect the surgical training experience of URM surgical residents in all areas of surgery a focus on the field of Orthopedic Surgery, given its particularly poor rates of diversity.
Authors conducted semi-structured video interviews on current surgical residents or fellows who were members of underrepresented populations including Female, African-American/Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, and First or Second-generation immigrant status. Recruitment was achieved through a combination of voluntary, convenience, and snowball sampling procedures. Interview transcripts were then coded using conventional thematic analysis. Themes were iteratively expanded into subthemes and subsequently categorized utilizing a pile-sorting methodology.
Among 23 surgical trainees 12 self-identified as Black (60.9%), 5 as Asian (17.4%), 1 as Hispanic (4.4%), and 5 as Caucasian (17.4%). Twelve residents identified as male (52%) and 11 as female (48%). Six surgical specialties were represented with the majority of participants (83%) being trainees in surgical subspecialties, among those orthopedic surgery was most strongly represented (57%). Analysis of their responses revealed 4 major themes: positive experiences, problems related to minority status, coping strategies, and participant suggested interventions. Themes were distilled further to sub-themes. Positive experiences’ sub-themes included finding a supportive community, pride in minority status, and being able to better relate to patients. Negative experiences related to minority status’ subthemes included perceived microaggressions and additional pressures, such as greater scrutiny and harsher punishments relative to their nonminority counterparts, which negatively impacted their surgical training. Most respondents did not feel there were dedicated resources to help alleviate these additional burdens, so some sought help outside of their training programs while others tried to assimilate, and others felt isolated. Recommended proposed interventions included validating the URM resident experience, providing education/training, and creating opportunities for mentorship.
URM surgical trainees face numerous challenges related to their minority status. Recruitment and retention of URM in medicine would benefit from individual early and longitudinal mentorship, mitigating imposter syndrome, acknowledging the challenges faced by residents, and seeking feedback from both past and current residents.

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