In the minority: Black physicians in residency and their experiences

Jane M. Liebschutz, Godwin O. Darko, Erin P. Finley, Jeanne M. Cawse, Monica Bharel, Jay D. Orlander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe black residents' perceptions of the impact of race on medical training. Materials and Methods: Open-ended interviews were conducted of bldck physicians in postgraduate year ≥2 who had graduated from U.S. medical schools and were enrolled in residency programs at one medical school. Using Grounded Theory tenets of qualitative research, data was culled for common themes through repeated readings; later, participants commented on themes from earlier interviews. Results: Of 19 participants 10 were male, distributed evenly among medical and surgical fields. Four major themes emerged from the narratives: discrimination, differing expectations, social isolation and consequences. Participants' sense of being a highly visible minority permeated each theme. Overt discrimination was rare. Participants perceived blacks to be punished more harshly for the same transgression and expected fo perform at lower levels than white counterparts. Participants' suspicion of racism as a motivation for individual and institutional behaviors was tempered by self-doubt. Social isolation from participants' white colleagues contrasted with connections experienced with black physicians, support staff and patients, and participants strongly desired black mentors. Consequences of these experiences varied greatly. Conclusions: Black physicians face complex social and emotional challenges during postgraduate training. Creating supportive networks and raising awareness of these issues may improve training experiences for black physicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1441-1448
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the National Medical Association
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006


  • Grounded theory
  • Racism
  • Residency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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