Carl M. Truesdale, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgery fellow in Beverly Hills, recently wrote about his commitment to and experience in helping to diversify medicine during his residency in Michigan Medicine’s department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery (https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/med-u/one-doctors-journey-to-diversify-medicine). When he started his residency, he was the sole Black physician among 20 residents; when he left, five of the 23 residents in the program were Black. In this interview, Dr. Truesdale spoke on his experience and ways to build a stronger, more representative physician workforce, particularly in competitive specialties such as otolaryngology.
ENTtoday: From your experience, what do you see as the main barriers for creating more diversity among physicians in specialties such as otolaryngology?
Carl Truesdale, MD: It all begins with the pipeline [of eligible candidates]. If you think about education, minority populations [are less likely to be included in that pool of candidates] as they’re less likely to finish college, or possibly even high school. Socioeconomic factors play a role in this.
The second barrier would be in medical school itself—otolaryngology is a very competitive specialty and not all medical students are exposed to it. Right now, the U.S. population is about 13% Black, but only 7% of medical school students are Black, only 6.1% of applicants for otolaryngology are Black, and only 2% of Blacks are otolaryngology residents. The reasons for this are multifactorial, but one main reason is that if you don’t see someone that looks like you in that field, you may not want to pursue it.
ENTT: During your residency, you helped to increase diversity within your otolaryngology department. What did you do to help achieve this? Could it translate to improving diversity in other specialties?
CT: It takes a collaborative effort and people at high levels to really change the narrative. When I started in the department there were no Black residents, although historically Michigan has trained the most Black otolaryngologists out of any other residency program in the country. I knew about that history, and it’s one of the reasons why I chose to go there. I think my just being there, as a Black physician, was important for the upcoming Black applicants who could look at me and see someone who looks like them be successful. I was a mentor to people inside and outside my department, and it became a catalyst for being able to help improve diversity in several ways.