AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

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AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. December 2001, Volume 3, Number 12.

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Concordance Extremis

Little-known medical trivia.

Audiey Kao, MD, PhD

  • According to the 2000 Census, the total US population stood at 281,421,906. Of that total, 69.1 percent are white; 12.3 percent are black/African American; 12.5 percent are Hispanic/Latino; 3.6 percent are Asian; and 0.09 percent are American Indian/Alaskan Native [1].
  • According to the American Medical Association, there are 812,713 physicians in the US. Among all US physicians, 75.3 percent are white; 3.6 percent are black/African American; 4.9 percent are Hispanic/Latino; 12.7 percent are Asian; and 0.0006 percent are American Indian/Alaskan Native [2].
  • On average, a family practitioner has approximately 1,500 patients in his or her practice [3].
  • Some studies suggest that minority patients receive better care from physicians of a similar racial and ethnic background [4-5]. It is thought that minority patients are more trusting of minority physicians, which promotes improved patient-physician communication. Therefore, some who advocate for greater representative diversity of the physician workforce may support policies that promote concordance in race and ethnicity between patient and physician.
  • If patient-physician racial/ethnic concordance were enacted today, it would mean that minority physicians would have patient panels that are several times larger than the current average. Extending patient-physician concordance to such extreme would not only be impractical, it would further reinforce, in a larger sense, that a color-blind society is not attainable.


  1. U.S. Census Bureau. United States Census 2000. Available at: Accessed November 28, 2001.
  2. American Medical Association. Minority physicians data source. Available at: Accessed November 28, 2001.
  3. Moore KJ. The salaried FP: the academy's first survey of salaried family physicians. Available at: Accessed November 28, 2001.
  4. Cooper-Patrick L, Gallo JJ, Gonzales JJ, et al. Race, gender, and partnership in the patient-physician relationship. JAMA. 1999;282:583-589.
  5. Saha S, Komaromy M, Koepsell TD, Bindman AB. Patient-physician racial concordance and the perceived quality and use of health care.
    Arch Intern Med. 1999;159:997-1004.

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