The physician workforce in the U.S. is slowly shifting as older doctors retire and younger doctors begin residencies to kickstart their careers.
More women are entering the profession, and certain specialties have seen boosted interest in the past few years, according to new data from Association of American Medical Colleges.
Some 37% of active physicians in the U.S. were women in 2021, up from about 36% in 2019, and about 47% of residents and fellows were women, according to the AAMC report.
Large gender pay gaps still exist, however. A 2021 report from the Rand Corporation published in Health Affairs found female physicians earn $2 million less than men over the course of their career, with the largest gaps in male-dominated specialties.
That study found that male physicians in surgical specialties earned about $2.5 million more than female physicians while male physicians in primary care earned about $900,000 more than female physicians over their careers.
Across all genders, primary care specialties like internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics had the largest number of active physicians and residents in 2021, according to the AAMC report.
Women, however, accounted for of 65% of active physicians in pediatrics, compared to almost 6% in orthopedic surgery.
Women also accounted for 86% of obstetrics and gynecology residencies, compared to nearly 11% in sports medicine.
Interest in sports medicine as a specialty has grown significantly over the past few years, rising from 2,252 to 3,208 practicing physicians from 2016 to 2021.
Sports medicine also grew the most among residents and fellows, rising about 27% during that period, followed by psychiatry, which rose about 26%.
Some specialties have also seen declines in active physicians, like pulmonary disease. Residents declined in preventive medicine and pediatric anesthesiology.
The report includes race and ethnicity data for the first time, and found that about 64% of practicing physicians in the country were White, while about 20% were Asian, 7% were Hispanic — regardless of race — and about 6% were Black in 2021, according to the report.