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Opinion: Diverse Doctors Can Balance Systemic Racism in Healthcare

Healthcare, a right that all citizens should experience equal treatment in, is plagued by systemic racism. For instance, a review in 2015 discovered that inequities and discrimination in healthcare “contributed to stress, anxiety, and depression,” especially in “Asian American and Latinx groups.” Systemic racism has problematically existed in American society for far too long, especially in the field of healthcare.

A prime example of these inherent problems can be found in dermatology textbooks. Some textbooks teach medical students about rashes and marks on the skin, but according to STAT News, there is a “lack of images of darker skin.” This prevents doctors from seeing what a symptom could look like on a person of color, leading to potentially dangerous misdiagnoses and overall medical negligence.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the patients facing underrepresentation; for instance, an Asian American nurse in New Mexico was racially harassed because a patient would not believe that she was born in America or credible to practice medicine. These are just a few telling examples of the paramount problem we face today.

The most efficient way to combat systemic racism and move one step closer towards racial equality in healthcare is to promote the hiring of diverse doctors and nurses in hospitals around America. While diverse is a broad term, if healthcare facilities actively hire a certain ratio of minority doctors and nurses, they can hopefully connect better with minority patients, fostering a greater understanding of our diverse society.

Currently, the route to becoming a doctor has inequities as well. According to the Associate Dean at the University of California at Davis, medical faculty are “mostly white men,” which is a roadblock on the journey to having more diverse medical students, or in other words, diverse doctors. Luckily, statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges show that students applying to medical school are becoming more diverse. The number of African American medical school applicants increased by about five percent, and those of American Indian heritage by about six percent. While those numbers may not seem like a sharp increase from previous years, it’s a good sign of change and will hopefully grow in the coming years.

If our society can increase the diversity in medical schools, and consequently, medical facilities, we can receive a headstart on more inclusive healthcare. In fact, a research project about patient-centered communication and correlations between patient and provider race shows that “race-concordant visits are… characterized by more patient positive affect,” meaning if the doctor and the patient are of the same race, there is an almost instant connection. This connection can be used to eliminate racism in the hospital, so that is exactly why we need more diverse doctors and nurses.

Although it can be argued that this hope is too idealistic or too far out of reach, it has been accomplished in the past. The Mount Sinai healthcare system, a top health facility in the U.S., was ranked as the most diverse healthcare company in America. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Gary Butts was proud of how the diverse facilities are helping care for diverse patient groups.

While eliminating systemic racism permanently in healthcare is a task with a long, twisted road ahead, enough perseverance should and will get us to the desired result. Let’s all get on that road together by hiring more diverse doctors and nurses in American hospitals.


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