A qualitative study of physicians' engagement in reducing healthcare disparities

Susanne K. Vanderbilt, Matthew K. Wynia, Margaret Gadon, G. Caleb Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite calls for physician engagement to reduce disparities, little is known about what drives physicians to become engaged or what engaged physicians are doing. We conducted in-depth interviews with a group of highly engaged physicians and used qualitative methods to identify how these physicians became interested in alleviating healthcare disparities and what strategies they use to improve care for their minority patients. We found that most participants have experienced being a minority, though only half were racial minorities, and many related extensive childhood experiences with minorities. Participants identified several key barriers to quality care for minorities, including language barriers, resource limitations, lack of patient education and low patient empowerment. When asked how physicians can reduce health disparities, most subjects emphasized interpersonal respect, though some promising non-interpersonal approaches to reducing disparities were also identified. These interviews document the lived experiences of a group of physicians who are highly engaged in reducing disparities and suggest that connecting with experiences as a minority and other early life experiences can prompt later professional engagement in this important issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1315-1322
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the National Medical Association
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Health disparities
  • Minority health
  • Qualitative research & analysis
  • Race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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