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History of the ASH Minority Recruitment Initiative

More than twenty years ago, leadership of the American Society of Hematology recognized that hematology in the United States attracts few underrepresented minorities, especially in contrast to the diversity of the hematologic patient population.

Based on the strong evidence that increasing the number of minority physician scientists and physicians will increase the access to care and quality of the medical experience for minority patients in the United States, the ASH leadership developed the Minority Recruitment Initiative (MRI) – a multi-faceted effort targeting medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty to attract more minority medical students to hematology and increase the number of minority hematologists with academic and research appointments.

This decision is based in part on data demonstrating that minority health professionals are more likely to treat minority and low income patients.

Despite the improved availability of educational opportunities and increasing recognition of the need for a diverse biomedical research workforce, many obstacles still impede the successful recruitment and retention of minorities to U.S. medicine. Minorities, specifically Hispanics, are the fastest growing groups of the U.S. population, but among the most underrepresented in science and technology careers, according to the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. Increasing minority participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at all levels has been recommended as an urgent national priority.

However, even when underrepresented minorities enter medical school, they may not be exposed to programs to allow them to fully appreciate the opportunities available in biomedical research. Moreover, it is very unlikely that they will encounter a significant number of individuals from their own ethnic groups with expertise in a highly specialized field such as hematology, given the very low representation of minorities on medical school faculty, which were only 4.3 percent Hispanic and 3.5 percent African American in 2010.

Because of this, the initiative provides complementary programs designed to offer opportunities at varying stages of a potential hematologist’s career. In doing so, the Society seeks to increase minority participation in biomedical research and increase the minority physician pipeline by increasing minority representation on medical school faculties.

By supporting this next generation of diverse trainees as they pursue a career in hematology, the ASH Minority Recruitment Initiative supports not only the individuals who directly benefit from these programs, but the specialty as a whole – and ultimately patients with life-threatening blood diseases.