New Study Documents the Racial Gap in Student Loan Debt of Medical Residents

A new study led by Louisa W. Holaday, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, examines student loan debt among medical residents by race.

Researchers used 2014–19 data on more than 120,000 postgraduate resident trainees obtained from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Slightly more than 5 percent of those surveyed were Black. Three types of debt were examined loans for premedical education, loans for medical education, and non-educational consumer debt.

The results showed that 95.5 percent of all Black medical residents had some type of debt. Black medical residents were more likely to have debt than those from any other racial or ethnic group. Nearly 90 percent of all Black medical residents had accumulated debt from their medical training. A majority of Black residents (59.9 percent) had debt from premedical education loans. More than half of all Black medical residents also had accumulated consumer debt.

For Black medical residents with undergraduate debt, the median amount owed was $25,000. For those with debt from their medical training, the median amount of debt was $180,000.

The authors explain that “high rates of debt may contribute to higher attrition among trainees and faculty members from populations underrepresented in medicine. Debt is a source of stress, which compounds other sources of stress more common among such trainees and faculty members. Trainees and physicians from populations underrepresented in medicine are more likely to report microaggressions and social isolation, as well as mistreatment such as public humiliation. Further, they experience bias in performance evaluations, funding, awards, and promotions. Thus, addressing debt may reduce one important source of stress for trainees and physicians from populations underrepresented in medicine and contribute to increasing both diversity and inclusion for physicians from these populations.”

The full study, “Differences In Debt Among Postgraduate Medical Residents By Self-Designated Race And Ethnicity, 2014–19,” was published in the journal Health Affairs. It may be accessed here.

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