Anti-Racism Workshop Discusses Intersectionality

The latest in a series of anti-racism workshops organized by NEOMED students explored aspects of intersectionality. Second-year College of Medicine student Lance Reidenbach and first-year College of Medicine student Diamanta Panford contributed the following reflection.

Events of the past year brought global attention to the racism and discrimination that the black community and people of color have been suffering through in our country. The Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter at NEOMED launched the Anti-Racism Workshop Series to combat this narrative and equip future health care providers to advocate for change in the lives of their patients and in the medical workforce. 

The third workshop in the series, a collaboration between SNMA and the NEOMED chapter of the Medical Student Pride Alliance (MSPA), was held recently, focusing on intersectionality from the perspectives of a physician and a patient. (Watch the workshop here.)

The term intersectionality describes how the presence of multiple identities can overlap (intersect) to impact a person’s life. The intersecting identities discussed in this workshop were race, gender identity and sexuality. Our guest speakers were Kendalle Cobb, M.D., a family physician at Cleveland Clinic Solon Family Health Center, and Solonè Allen, a transgender rights advocate working on addressing issues in transgender communities of color. 

Cobb spoke on life as a minority in the medical field and the intersectionality of being a woman of color on this career path. Allen spoke about the intersectionality of being a transgender woman as well as a person of color. Here are the key messages our panelists wanted to impart:

  • Assumptions are made every day about people’s backgrounds and how far people can go in life based on the color of their skin. We must be aware of these assumptions and actively work to combat them by approaching each person as unique individuals. We also need to know that we will not always get it correct. We can apologize for mistakes and work daily to dismantle those assumptions/biases.
  • Allow people to tell you their identities and create an environment in which people feel safe to share.
  • In instances of power dynamics (in the workforce, residency or education), determining how to approach injustices depends on the relationship and resources. Use your privilege to help those who are not as fortunate. 
  • People’s identities can change and evolve, so be aware of this spectrum of expression. It is important to provide treatment/resources in a way that helps address the complexities of a patient’s identity – in ways that treat people’s minds, bodies and souls.

It was such an honor to be a part of this narrative. Please tune in for the fourth part of the workshop, taking place at noon Tuesday, March 23. This discussion will feature our very own NEOMED physicians Mary Massie-Story, M.D., and Sonja Harris-Haywood, M.D., discussing health disparities of minority populations. 

Students, watch your emails for a link to the event. We hope to see you there.

-Lance Reidenbach, MPH, and Diamanta Panford

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