I want to kill all the Jews,” shouted the man accused of killing 11 people and wounding seven others in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, as he arrived in the emergency room of Allegheny General Hospital in need of treatment after being shot by police. Among the team that treated him were several physicians and nurses who were Jewish, and the president of the Hospital, Jeffrey K. Cohen, MD, a congregant of the synagogue, stopped by the man’s room after treatment to check in on him. “We’re here to take care of sick people,” Dr. Cohen said, as reported in The Washington Post. “We’re not here to judge you.”
Explore this issue:December 2018
This pledge to care for all patients, regardless of bias and circumstance, underwrites the code of conduct and belief that healthcare workers commit to in a profession devoted to caring for people in need. And yet, what do physicians and healthcare workers do when a patient treats them with hostility or resistance because of bias—most often based on race/ethnicity, sex, or religion?
“There is a rising prevalence of explicit acts of xenophobia in the country,” said Howard W. Francis, MD, MBA, professor and chief of the division of head and neck surgery and communication sciences at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “We need to be prepared to quickly and effectively address this issue when it arises. To do otherwise will compromise our efforts to build inclusive, diverse, and effective teams.”