The Influence of Physicians’ Demographic Characteristics and Their Patients’ Demographic Characteristics on Physician Practice: Implications for Education and Research

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In recent years, interest in improving health care to diverse patient populations has stimulated the development of academic and clinical resources to improve physicians’ cultural competence. These efforts have focused on increasing physicians’ sensitivity to the roles patients’ ethnicity and culture play in health care. However, the influence of physicians’ own demographic characteristics on their practice of medicine is an important, yet relatively overlooked, consideration among efforts to improve cross-cultural care. There is a strong presumption in the medical literature that clinicians are neutral operators governed by objective science and are unaffected by personal variables. Yet, there is a body of research that finds physicians’ practice patterns are influenced by their own demographic characteristics, and patient care is affected by the demographic concordance or discordance of the physician–patient dyad. The author discusses this existing literature to illustrate the presence and importance of the impact of physicians’ demographic characteristics on the care they provide and discusses strategies to mitigate this influence. Greater attention to understanding the way in which physician demographic characteristics influence clinical care using multidisciplinary and multimodal approaches provides an opportunity to improve the quality of medical education and improve the quality and efficacy of medical care.

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