Racial minorities in the cardiology workforce face discrimination. According to an American College of Cardiology (ACC) Professional Life Survey, 52.3% of underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities (URMs) reported experiencing discrimination, yet 15.9% fewer reports of discrimination existed among White respondents. A majority of URMs in the cardiology workforce experience a culture of discrimination while on the job. However, an overwhelming 91.2% of URMs responded that they are satisfied with their careers, citing satisfaction with financial compensation and with advancement opportunities. According to Kevin L. Thomas, MD, of the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina, this discrepancy may be attributed to sheer determination or grit. In other words, URMs’ professional success in the cardiology workforce may be the barometer motivating their responses regarding career satisfaction, as opposed to providing responses swayed more by personal interactions in the workplace. Dr. Thomas suggests that the accumulated life experiences and obstacles faced by minorities might cultivate a more resilient nature. This would also explain the lower burnout rate among URMs (22.4%) when compared with the 30.3% burnout rate of White correspondents.

According to a Journal of the American College of Cardiology study published in October 2021, URM women face significantly more discrimination than White men in the cardiology workforce, as do URM men. Whereas a mere 13.9% of White men reported experiencing discrimination, 69.2% of White women, 62.7% of URM women, and 44.6% of URM men responded that they experience discrimination. When considered strictly based on gender, men in the cardiology workforce were more likely to confront race and religion-based discrimination, whereas nearly all women respondents in the cardiology workforce experienced sex discrimination. The 2021 study also found that URMs prioritized salary, benefits, work hours, academic rank, and workspace more than White respondents, which supports their high levels of professional satisfaction despite personal discrimination reflected in the Professional Life Survey.

According to Dr. Thomas, URMs are prone to experiencing the “minority tax”—being burdened with superfluous responsibilities disguised under the veil of inclusivity efforts. Instead, he urges cardiologists from the “dominant culture” to mentor URM and women cardiologists, thereby providing them an increased opportunity to become leaders in their field, spearheading clinical trials, running committees, and taking on high-profile roles.

Dr. Thomas stresses the importance of understanding the experiences of systemically disadvantaged and historically marginalized groups to create a cardiology workplace, and healthcare workforce at large, that emphasizes diversity. A diverse workforce provides a more accurate, holistic reflection of our country, and it would allow for improved healthcare experiences for both workers and patients.