Looking at Racial Bias in Health Care

Story by story, step by step.

Looking at racial bias in medicine, and specifically at the experiences of students in the College of Medicine, is not a task that can be accomplished quickly. But a recent one-hour session organized by Diamanta Panford (M2) and the Student National Medical Association was a step in that direction, bringing together students and other interested parties to Olson Hall for a discussion moderated by Yoleeta Ilodi, M.D., assistant dean of diversity in the College of Medicine and assistant professor of internal medicine; and Sonja Harris-Haywood, M.D., associate dean of curriculum in the College of Medicine.   

Within this safe space, students shared anecdotes about biased behavior that has caused them distress as medicine students.

NEOMED is not alone in addressing questions of racial bias in health care. An article on Cleveland.com, “Ohio Survey Details Views of Racial Bias in Healthcare Settings,” discusses a survey commissioned by the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition and three Columbus-based organizations -- UHCAN Ohio, the Ohio Unity Coalition and the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence. One key finding: “People of color — especially women — said they often felt disrespected. Nearly 60% of Black women and 52% of white women reported their symptoms had been dismissed, as compared to 41% of Black males and 20% of white males.”

According to the Cleveland.com article, a 2021 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation backs up the new Ohio study, noting that “Blacks reported being discriminated against or unfairly judged by health care providers almost three times more often than whites, and twice as often as Hispanics.”

What can be done? It’s important to continue to have honest conversations in a safe space, says Dr. Ilodi, adding that some next steps need to follow.

Here are Dr. Ilodi’s aspirational next steps to improve the learning environment for all students:

  1. Use current committees to review the structures and policies that have been the status quo and eliminate those standards that perpetuate inequity
  2. Examine NEOMED’s curriculum infrastructure for environmental racism
  3. Empower students to continue to speak up
  4. Include diversity, justice, equity and inclusion training at every level of the organization
  5. Embed diversity, justice, equity and inclusion into performance evaluations

Watch The Pulse for updates.

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