Tips to Help Teen Patients Deal With Discrimination


Even subtle bias can affect our patients, but talking about it can help.

Fam Pract Manag. 2016 Jul-Aug;23(4):44.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

It was 1997, and I had recently immigrated to the United States from Argentina to complete a fellowship in adolescent medicine and a master's degree in public health. I was seeing a doctor for the first time at my university for a recently developed rash. Exhausted, I just wanted a prescription. The doctor had taken some initial notes and then got called out of the exam room. As I sat there waiting, I noticed my chart lying open on the counter, and one sentence caught my eye: Patient states that she is a "physician."

It took the air out of me. Did this physician doubt my words? Why? I left the exam room that day feeling confused and hurt.

Years later, I came across the Institute of Medicine report Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. It showed that although physicians are supposed to protect, enable, and heal, we are among the perpetrators of bias, discrimination, and stereotyping. I began thinking about how to provide sensitive care by opening up this crucial conversation, starting with some of the most vulnerable patients: adolescent minorities.

Caring for teens

About the Author

Dr. Svetaz is a family physician with the Hennepin County Medical Center Department of Family and Community Medicine in Minneapolis and chair of the Diversity Committee at the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


1. Lerner RM, Almerigi JB, Theokas C, Lerner JV. Positive youth development: a view of the issues. J Early Adolesc. 2005;25(1):10-16.

2. Cunningham G. We all do better when we all do better. Star Tribune. Sept. 22, 2010. Accessed June 1, 2016.


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