There are few data available on the experience of minority surgeons in the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to 1) explore factors that contribute to African Americans choosing OMS as a career, 2) examine satisfaction among minority oral and maxillofacial surgeons with the residency application and training process, 3) report on practice patterns among minority oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and 4) identify perceived bias for or against minority oral and maxillofacial surgeons in an attempt to aid the efforts of OMS residency organizations to foster diversity.
Materials and Methods
A 19-item survey was sent to 80 OMS practitioners by use of information from the mailing list of the National Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, an American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons–affiliated organization. All surveys were sent by mail and were followed by a reminder mailing after 8 weeks. Responses returned within 16 weeks were accepted for analysis.
Of the 80 mailed surveys, 41 were returned within the 16-week parameter, representing a return rate of 51%. Most of the minority surgeon respondents were married men with a mean age of 60 years who worked as private practitioners. Most respondents practiced on the eastern and western coasts of the United States. Exposure in dental school was the most important factor in selecting OMS as a specialty. Location and prestige were the most important factors in selecting a residency program. Most respondents reported that race did not affect the success of their application to a residency program and did not currently affect the success of their practice. However, 25 to 46% of participants experienced race-related harassment, and 48 to 55% of participants believed there was a bias against African Americans in OMS.
Our data suggest that a substantial number of minority oral and maxillofacial surgeons subjectively perceive race-based bias in their career, although it does not appear to affect professional success.