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Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000157
Letters to the Editor

Minority Faculty Pay a Higher Proportion of Their Earnings to Student Debt

Rodríguez, José E. MD; Campbell, Kendall M. MD

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Associate professor and codirector, Center for Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida; jose.rodriguez@med.fsu.edu.

Associate professor and codirector, Center for Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida.

Disclosures: None reported.

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To the Editor:

Racism, diversity pressures, lack of mentorship, and isolation have been identified as concerns affecting recruitment and retention of minority faculty.1–3 However, there is another looming issue that plagues many minority households: student debt. According to a 2012 report by the Center for American Progress, student loan debt disproportionately affects minority college students.4 Minority students have higher student loan debt ($28,692 for black students versus $24,742 for white students versus $22,886 for Hispanic students). This is an alarming trend, considering that these are undergraduate figures. Efforts need to be made at the college and medical school level to reduce student debt, and more incentives targeting minority graduates are needed to grow the minority faculty population.

Debt affects minority students throughout their careers and has been shown to affect academic medical faculty. Minority faculty have increased financial need as they may be breadwinners for immediate and extended family.5 Debt has also been cited as a reason for minority faculty attrition,6 as low salaries and increased financial need cause minorities to look for jobs elsewhere. Because of the disparity in promotion rates, minority faculty7,8 are paying a higher proportion of their incomes to student loans than faculty members from other groups.

Is it any wonder that the proportions of underrepresented minority faculty have not changed in 20 years?8 Faculty loan repayment programs should be popularized and expanded to alleviate the disproportionate debt burden that minority faculty face. This way, minority students and graduates who are interested in an academic career have an opportunity to focus on their intellectual pursuits rather than on the elimination of their student debt.

José E. Rodréguez, MD

Associate professor and codirector, Center for Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida; jose.rodriguez@med.fsu.edu.

Kendall M. Campbell, MD

Associate professor and codirector, Center for Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida.

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References

1. Elliott BA, Dorscher J, Wirta A, Hill DL. Staying connected: Native American women faculty members on experiencing success. Acad Med. 2010;85:675–679

2. Pololi LH, Jones SJ. Women faculty: An analysis of their experiences in academic medicine and their coping strategies. Gend Med. 2010;7:438–450

3. Rodríguez JE, Campbell KM. Ways to guarantee minority faculty will quit academic medicine. Acad Med. 2013;88:1591

4. Johnson A, Van Ostern T, White A The Student Debt Crisis. 2012 Washington, DC Center for American Progress

5. Pololi L, Cooper LA, Carr P. Race, disadvantage and faculty experiences in academic medicine. J Gen Intern Med. 2010;25:1363–1369

6. Cropsey KL, Masho SW, Shiang R, Sikka V, Kornstein SG, Hampton CLCommittee on the Status of Women and Minorities, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Medical College of Virginia Campus. . Why do faculty leave? Reasons for attrition of women and minority faculty from a medical school: Four-year results. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2008;17:1111–1118

7. Fang D, Moy E, Colburn L, Hurley J. Racial and ethnic disparities in faculty promotion in academic medicine. JAMA. 2000;284:1085–1092

8. Nunez-Smith M, Ciarleglio MM, Sandoval-Schaefer T, et al. Institutional variation in the promotion of racial/ethnic minority faculty at US medical schools. Am J Public Health. 2012;102:852–858

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges

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