A physical therapist holds a patient's arm and palpates their shoulder in front of an abstract blue background

8 Medical Professions That Need More Diversity

Heidi Jannenga

We all know the saying: “Too much of anything is bad.” It doesn’t matter how good or innocuous a thing or an activity might be—its overuse or overconsumption will always come packaged and parceled with negative consequences. Too much exercise can injure your body. Too much information can lead to mental exhaustion and decision paralysis. Heck, even too much water can put you into shock!

And while it’s fun to say that variety is the spice of life, the truth is that diversity—especially in a healthcare setting—is critical for pinpointing flaws and weaknesses in clinic processes and creating the best environment possible. More diversity in a healthcare setting contributes to a better patient experience, and for the business-minded folks out there, it also improves company performance in general. 

Knowing that, how is the US medical industry stacking up against population data—and where does rehab therapy stand in all that?

How diverse are different medical professions?

Let’s start by revisiting some data from the US Census Bureau. The following table shows the racial and ethnic demographics of the United States in 2019. 

White, not Hispanic or Latino, AloneBlack or African AmericanAsianHispanic or LatinoNative Hawaiian and Other Pacific IslanderAmerican Indian and Alaska NativeTwo or More Races
US Census Estimates (2019)60.1%13.4%5.9%18.5% 0.2%1.3%2.8%
Racial and Ethnic Demographics of the United States in 2019

In a perfect world, the racial and ethnic distribution of medical professionals would align very closely with the US census data. But as you’ll see from the following Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, that’s not really what’s happening. Black, Hispanic or Latinx, and Asian professionals are underrepresented in the following eight medical professions.

WhiteBlack or
or Latino
Physical Therapists77.8%5.2%15%4.4%
Occupational Therapists87.6%4.0%7.4%6.5%
Speech-Language Pathologists89.7%6.6%3.6%8.5%
Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides88.6%6.6%3.7%5.8%
Physicians (Not Emergency Medicine)67.0%8.5%22.0%8.8%
Physician Assistants79.9%6.3%12.3%7.9%
Chiropractors 90.7%2.4%5.1%6.1%
Dietitians and Nutritionists74.7%15.5%8.2%9.9%
Racial and Ethnic Demographics of Medical Professionals Employed in 2020

As a short note, the BLS did not have enough data about OTAs or SLPAs to provide demographics for those clinical professions. That said, when WebPT conducted its annual State of Rehab Therapy survey in 2021, the data (while also limited) indicated that OTAs may have this same problem. 

How diverse are non-clinical rehab therapy professions? 

Clinical professionals aren’t the only job roles in the medical industry that have skewed demographics. Take a look at some of WebPT’s 2021 survey data—and remember that it’s specific to rehab therapy. What it shows is that rehab therapy organizations suffer from a lack of diversity in all corners of the business—and the problem is exacerbated the higher up the food chain you go. 

White, not Hispanic or Latino, AloneBlack or African AmericanAsianHispanic or LatinoNative Hawaiian and Other Pacific IslanderAmerican Indian and Alaska Native
Clerical Staff73.2%6.3%5.6%11.8%0.7%1.0%
C-Level Executives91.8%0%4.1%0%2.0%0%
Vice Presidents91.4%2.3%0.9%2.3%.09%0.9%
Racial and Ethnic Demographics of the United States in 2019

These industry professionals may not be treating patients, but they still hold an enormous amount of influence over the patient experience, whether they’re working on the ground or actively guiding the future of the industry.

Improving a medical organization’s level of diversity can benefit everyone involved. Together, by making healthcare more inclusive, we can improve the patient experience, achieve better patient outcomes, and prosper together. 

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About the Author

Heidi Jannenga

I am an active member of the sports and private practice sections of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and an advocate for independent rehab therapy businesses. I was appointed to the PT-PAC Board of Trustees in 2014, and in that position, I advocate on behalf of the APTA and our profession as a whole. Additionally, I speak as a subject-matter expert at industry conferences and events, leveraging my platform to promote the importance of women in leadership, company culture, and overall business acumen for rehab therapy professionals. I also serve as a mentor for physical therapy students and local entrepreneurs as well as a board member for Support My Club and Tallwave, where I have the opportunity to share my experience and passion for healthcare innovation and use my collaborative leadership style to empower others.



  1. Annita Colucci on February 13, 2022 at 1:29 pm

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe that this site needs far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the information!

    • Heidi Jannenga on April 2, 2022 at 7:18 am

      Hi Annita
      Thank you! Please help spread the word!