Research: Are Hispanic, Black, and Asian Physicians Truly Less Burned Out Than White Physicians?

In “Burnout, Depression, Career Satisfaction, and Work-Life Integration by Physician Race/Ethnicity,” JAMA Network Open (August 3, 2020), author Luis C. Garcia, MS concludes that physicians in minority racial/ethnic groups were less likely to report burnout compared with non-Hispanic White physicians. Garcia and his co-investigators state that “future research is necessary to confirm these results, investigate factors contributing to increased rates of burnout among non-Hispanic White physicians, and assess factors underlying the observed patterns in measures of physician wellness by race/ethnicity.” (JAMA Network Open)

In a rejoinder to this article, “Are Hispanic, Black, and Asian Physicians Truly Less Burned Out Than White Physicians? Individual and Institutional Considerations,” JAMA Network Open (August 7, 2020), Joel Cantor, Sc.D. and Dawne M. Mouzon, Ph.D., both of the Bloustein School state that, “We need first to consider the possibility that this result may not truly reflect better practice circumstances or more resilient personal characteristics of these physicians. Although the data used by Garcia and colleagues (JAMA Network Open, August 3, 2020) have strength in their national scope and detailed measures, the sample sizes are not large enough to enable full disentangling of the association between race/ethnicity and burnout.”

Cantor and Mouzon suggest that future work on this issue should use surveys that include more people of color or draw on large administrative databases or in-depth qualitative methods should be used to complement surveys.

They also suggest that there may be other factors driving the finding of less burnout among physicians of color compared to their White counterparts.  These include a commitment to work within their communities and more emotional support from their families among others.  They state that “The work by Garcia and colleagues JAMA Network Open, August 3, 2020) raises important questions. As the nation grows more diverse, identifying forces undermining the vitality of the physician workforce is as important now as ever, particularly so for physicians from groups underrepresented in medicine. Fairness dictates that we strive for equal opportunities in health care careers for persons of minority racial/ethnic groups. Improving accessibility and effectiveness of care for underserved patients, especially in these most dire of times, depends on it.”