As the field of stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy continues to grow, there is a need to ensure adequate inclusion of underrepresented groups in the workforce. In a study presented at the 2022 Tandem Meetings of the American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) and the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR), researchers investigated the state of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity among stem cell transplant physicians and leadership in the United States.1

Analysis of data pertaining to 1109 physicians from 142 organizations accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) revealed that 30% of these doctors identified as women.

Although the percentage of women entering the workforce has increased in recent decades, the results demonstrated that men still occupy a far greater number of leadership positions and professorship titles compared to women. For example, men occupied 84% of division chief positions and 76% of full professorship titles, while women occupied 14% and 24% of these roles, respectively.1

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The racial and ethnic distribution across the sample was 2% Black/African-American, 5% Hispanic, 64% White, and 27% Asian.

“This data will serve as a benchmark to explore reasons that affect the underrepresentation of women and racial minorities in the growing field of transplant and cellular therapy,” the authors wrote in their report.1

These findings align with those of previous research showing gender and racial disparities in the hematology and oncology workforce in general.1,2

To further discuss the current study results, Hematology Advisor interviewed co-authors Snegha Ananth, MD, clinical fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, part of the Mays Cancer Center, and Zohra Nooruddin, MD, an associate professor at the institution.

Why was there a need to evaluate the distribution of gender, race, and ethnicity in the US stem cell physician workforce?

Dr Ananth: The leaky pipeline that dwindles women’s representation at each advanced step in career and leadership has been well studied across medical and surgical specialties. However, we have no previously published data regarding the description of the stem cell transplant workforce and the representation of women and minorities in its professional ranks.

It is well known that despite the rise in women enrolling in medical school over the past 3 decades, women’s enrollment and representation in residency, fellowship, and eventually the academic workforce is lower compared to men. In fact, new findings3 based on 2019 American Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) enrollment data show that there is greater gender disparity in subspecialty enrollment now than in 1991.

Dr Nooruddin: Stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy is usually considered to be a clinically intensive subspecialty with less flexibility and more inpatient service. Becoming a stem cell transplant physician takes approximately 7 years of training post-medical school. After completing a 3-year hematology-oncology fellowship, it takes an additional year of training prior to practice, further prolonging the duration of training with minimal financial compensation.

Dr Ananth: Hence, it is important to study the demographics of the current stem cell transplant workforce to assess disparities that might affect the long-term representation of the physicians in this specialty and address them promptly through advocacy and opportunities.