Unfortunately, incidents like these continued through college, medical school, and my professional life. In medical school, I had a patient refuse a physical examination by a “negro student.” I’ve been asked if I got into medical school because of affirmative action. I’ve had peers ask me why I “don’t talk like I’m Black.” Although I recognized the discrimination in these incidents, I never responded or spoke my mind because I didn’t want to make a scene, and I was nervous about it preventing me from advancing in my medical career.
Explore This IssueJuly 2020
When I think about how respect for all can be accomplished, there are some things to consider. People might think that racism affects only a particular socioeconomic group or class, but this isn’t the case. I think it’s important for individuals to recognize their implicit racial bias, meaning the mental process that stimulates negative attitudes about people who aren’t members of one’s own racial group. Minimizing implicit bias may be difficult, but the first step is recognizing it. Trying to challenge current negative biases about specific racial groups with contrary or positive information that goes against negative stereotypes is useful. Engaging in open dialogue with others about one’s biases can also be helpful. Limiting bias not only can help with interactions with peers but can also improve relationships with patients by recognizing how one’s biases can influence those interactions.
Being an ally also helps. Ideally, individuals would speak up when they witness racism or discrimination of any form. People who hold positions of privilege or leadership need to be more active allies to those with less access and to take responsibility to advocate for changes that will help others be successful. In our specialty, there’s a need to continue to increase the presence of minorities in leadership positions, as moderators on panels, and at scientific presentations. Recruitment at an early age to the field is crucial. Being a part of the solution, not the problem, starts with understanding and working on ourselves, recognizing our biases, and actively being an ally.