Some Welcome Changes That Are Helping to Diversify Urology

Public Health

Some Welcome Changes That Are Helping to Diversify Urology

"Early engagement into the world of urology should start at the high school, middle school, and college level."

Like other surgical specialties, urology has struggled to diversify and attract underrepresented minorities (URMs) and women for years.

Introducing these underserved populations to urology early on in their academic careers through mentorship programs, targeted education, and new recruitment opportunities is the approach that some doctors and organizations are now taking to diversify the industry, according to a recent podcast and some scholarly articles.   

Suggestions to Diversify Urology

About 10.3 percent of practicing urologists are women, 2.1 percent identify as African American, and 3.9 percent are Hispanic, according to the American Urological Association (AUA).

Dr. Efe Chantal Channy Simons, said on a recent episode of the "Speaking of Urology" podcast that the only way to improve diversity in urology is to engage students during their formative years of education and get them excited about urology.

“Early engagement into the world of urology should start at the high school, middle school, and college level,” Simons said. "We can also be proactive about exposing our specialty to individuals in medical schools that don't have department representation."

Simons is a urology resident physician at the University of California, Los Angeles.

AUA suggests that high schools should implement pre-medical study — summer clinical immersion — and research programs to further enhance diversity in urology.

A recent article in the journal Urology entitled “Solutions: Bridging the Diversity Gap In Urology Trainees” suggests that urology residency programs consider partnering with an established medical student group dedicated to supporting underrepresented minority and female trainees.

Medical student groups such as the Student National Medical Association host recruiting events like the American Medical Education Conference (AMEC) to attract minority and female medical students.

The AMEC is considered the largest gathering of underrepresented minority and female
medical students in the U.S. The conference allows institutions to showcase their residency programs and provides students the opportunity to meet faculty and academic staff.

Specialties like urology are rarely represented at the residency fair but are an untapped resource for introducing minority and female pre-medical and medical students to the field, according to the authors.

Recruiting Underrepresented Minorities and Women to Urology

Medical schools are using mentorship programs and targeted education to encourage underrepresented minority and female candidates to enroll in their urology programs.

Three key groups are helping to lay a solid foundation for diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout urology.

The University of California-San Francisco has created a mentorship program that matches residents or fellow volunteers nationwide for mentoring.

In addition, the Society of Women in Urology (SWIU) supports female urologists' professional development and advancement through education and advocacy.

SWIU provides direct professional advancement through an annual mentoring conference, awards recognizing excellence in research, leadership, mentorship, advocacy work, and a speaker database to increase the visibility of women in conferences and leadership.

Urology Unbound, meanwhile, is a nonprofit committed to recruiting, retaining, and promoting underrepresented minority urologists.

Urology Unbound provides:

  • Targeted education
  • Exposure to career advancement opportunities
  • Research funding
  • Mentorship programs for underrepresented minority pre-medical and medical school students

In addition to mentorship opportunities, some urology residency programs also use their institution's website as a recruiting tool to attract underrepresented minorities and women.

A recent study reviewed 130 urology medical school websites to determine if medical schools were actively attempting to recruit underrepresented minority and female applicants.

The study concluded that only 36 programs mentioned diversity or inclusion on their website.

The most common reference to diversity provided a link to a Department of Diversity and Inclusion webpage on 20.4 percent of the reviewed websites, according to the study.

While residency programs may use their websites as an essential tool to recruit underrepresented minority students and women, “there is still plenty of room for improvement” if efforts to diversify the field of urology are going to succeed, researchers say.

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