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.
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. http://strib.mn/1Ut0ZG9. Accessed June 1, 2016.
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