The Whitest Specialty: As Medicine Strives to Close Its Diversity Gaps, One Field Remains a Stubborn Outlier

Erica Taylor has a pedigree seemingly built for orthopedic surgery. She comes from National Football League royalty — her father, Hall of Fame receiver Charley Taylor, played 13 seasons with Washington’s football team — and she has degrees from a top-notch biomedical engineering program at the University of Virginia and one of the nation’s best medical schools, Duke. Spending every other childhood Sunday seeing doctors in action on gridiron sidelines, she’d wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon since she was 15.

So as a sophomore, Taylor asked to meet with a local orthopedic surgeon about the field. He enthusiastically agreed. But when she arrived, his demeanor changed. “He said, ‘Oh, you’re Erica,’ and for 20 minutes proceeded to tell me that orthopedics was too hard and most people like me go into family medicine or maybe OB-GYN,” said Taylor, who is Black. “I remember walking to the elevator with tears in my eyes. It was my first wake-up call that there were different rules for different people.”

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