Minerva Romero Arenas, MD, MPH, FACS, is a general and endocrine surgeon and an assistant professor of surgery at New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine Department of Surgery. In May 2020, a study she co-authored that was published in the Journal of Surgical Research presented difficult-to-comprehend results: The total percentage of all academic surgeons in the U.S. who are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander is just 7%.
Dr. Romero Arenas and her colleague Fabiola Valenzuela, MD, examined publicly available data from 2005 through 2018 to see how much progress had been made in underrepresented in medicine (URM) representation among academic surgery faculty. African American representation did not significantly increase over that time. Even worse, the percentage of Hispanic/Latino academic surgery faculty actually decreased over those 13 years.
How can this be in 2021? We sat down with Dr. Romero Arenas, an immigrant to the U.S. originally from Mexico City and cofounder of the Latino Surgical Society, to take a deeper dive into this persistent and distressing trend, discuss what can be done to increase the presence of URM in surgery and reiterate exactly why increasing representation is so important.