Increasing health care diversity is critical to overcoming disparities. Plastic surgery has been working to improve diversity through various efforts, including social media movements like Diversify PRS and #ilooklikeasurgeon. Because residency programs' social media sites serve as a public symbol of the programs' values and can attract potential applicants, we sought to analyze such platforms for content highlighting sex and ethnic diversity.
Integrated plastic surgery residency programs during the 2020 to 2021 academic year were found on the American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons website, and their associated social media accounts were identified. The authors reviewed each program's account for all posts published by November 8, 2021, for content promoting sex or ethnic diversity. Any hashtags related to diversity were also recorded. Nonparametric Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to compare percentages of total social media posts related to sex and ethnic diversity between programs (α = 0.05).
Of 82 programs, 76 (92.7%) had active Instagram accounts, 29 (35.4%) had active Facebook accounts, and 29 (35.4%) had active Twitter accounts. Across all platforms, 19.0% of all posts were promoting sex diversity and 3.3% were promoting ethnic diversity. Of 4651 posts promoting sex diversity, 4067 (87.4%) highlighted women, 1017 (21.9%) featured all-women teams, 779 (16.7%) used sex diversity-related hashtags, and 300 (6.5%) included purposeful statements. Of 808 posts promoting ethnic diversity, 527 (65.2%) used ethnic diversity-related hashtags, 224 (27.7%) included purposeful statements, 199 (24.6%) mentioned ethnic background, and 36 (4.5%) used different skin-toned emojis. Programs did not vary in percentages of posts related to diversity by geographic region, ranking, accreditation length, or engagement rate. The percentage of posts promoting sex diversity was greater than that promoting ethnic diversity (P < 0.001). The most used diversity hashtag was #ilooklikeasurgeon.
Despite the importance of increasing recruitment of trainees from diverse backgrounds to plastic surgery and the global reach of social media movements like #ilooklikeasurgeon, sex and ethnic diversity are still poorly promoted on residency social media accounts. Increasing such content is a simple yet powerful way to create a culture of inclusivity for all applicants.