Week 6 Activity Post


Racial Bias in Medicine Leads to Worse Care for Minorities

By Michael O. Schroeder

The article starts by detailing the experience of Dr. Ron Wyatt, a patient safety officer and medical director in the Division of Healthcare Improvement at The Joint Commission, as he visited an award winning hospital in Chicago with a high fever. He is also black.  The medical staff at the hospital had no idea who he was, so he received the same treatment that is normal for others with his complexion.


The first poor treatment seen, was not towards just him, but also his wife.  Although his wife has power of attorney, the nurse demanded Wyatt fill out his own paperwork, and she could not touch it.  The article details his negative experience with the nurse, insurance collector and physician.  The whole thing echoes so much of what we have heard about this week.  The only accommodating and positive encounter Wyatt and his wife had, was with an administrative staffer, who was also black, and after she witnessed some less than helpful behavior from a nurse, told Wyatt, “Don’t let it bother you…we see this all the time.”


The article then goes into the negative health effects this kind of discriminatory behavior produces, and why it is so harmful to minorities.  Personally, I give Dr. Ron Wyatt a great deal of credit for putting up with all of the poor treatment he did, considering his medical degree and his job position, I am not too sure that my ego and pride would not have lead me to have one of the stereotypical “Do you know who I am?” kind of fits.  But I guess that is some of my white privilege coming out.  I grew up always receiving top notch care and attention, and if I did not, my parents certainly did not sit by and accept anything below than great medical care.  That is my norm and those are my expectations.  Wyatt grew up in racially segregated Alabama, and because of this, I assume he grew up with a very different norm of medical care.  In his statements about his experience, he seems much more level headed, and certainly not shocked.  This gives a pretty shocking image of the disparities in care and attention towards minorities in our medical system.  Here is a well-regarded physician, who had just returned from volunteering with orphaned children in Zambia, who is also employed by a nonprofit that accredits health care providers all over the US and has great power in the health industry, and he finds himself in a decorated US hospital, receiving blatantly poor healthcare.  The kicker for me is, he doesn’t even seem surprised.

3 thoughts on “Week 6 Activity Post

  1. This was a very interesting article. I was so surprised by the lack of care or concern that Dr. Wyatt received while at the hospital. I have never experienced a doctor or nurse bluntly disregard me while trying to get treated but at the same time I am not surprised that Dr. Wyatt experienced this horrible care at one of the “award winning hospital.” I was really shocked how every person he encountered except for the fellow black individual had a complete disregard for the patient. What made the matters worse was that because of his medical background he was not oblivious to how they were just trying to push him off instead of actually trying to figure out why he was running such a high fever. Maybe it would not have been as bad if he did not have knowledge in the medical field. Maybe he would have believed the doctor and figured all he needed to do was take a Tylenol and he would be fine. What I did not understand was why there was so much attitude and disrespect from the nurse when it came to getting the information for Dr. Wyatt. Did it honestly matter if his wife or Dr. Wyatt filled out the personal paperwork? No matter who would have filled out the papers, the hospital would have received the same information. In the end, there was no reason as to why this couple was treated like this. The color of skin should not determine what time of treatment from doctor you will receive. A person’s decision of doing their job should not be determined by their race.

  2. It amazes me that a hospital that treats anyone this way can be an “award winning” hospital. I mean it is wrong to treat any individual how they did, but you would think that they would have all his information and realize that he is a relatively important figure, and in the field of medicine ! It is impressive that he held his composure so well especially having his wife who is also a powerful figure disrespected as well. I am not surprised though because a black man who enters the field of medicine is going to deal with constant scrutiny and disrespect. His character shows why he is has gotten so far in such a competitive profession. How Dr. Wyatt handled the situation shows that this is nothing new to him and that he has dealt with situations like that before. I wonder how people still believe that people should be given medicine one or treatment based on the color of their skin. How is his fever different from a white man’s? It’s not, never was and never will be. I commend Dr. Wyatt and his wife for their patience. Great post, it touches our subjects issues very well.

  3. Wow, this article really opened my eyes about the discrimination in medicine! One of the most interesting things I read in this article was the idea that people who report more discrimination have higher instances of high blood pressure, anxiety, and diseases that are linked to psychological stress. As a white guy, I can try to understand the pain and suffering those who are discriminated against are going through. Yet, at the end of the day, I have no idea what that is like. I never thought about how the discrimination itself can have negative health effects on a person. I would be interested in seeing more studies done on the effects of stress and discrimination on health. Perhaps seeing a study that expanded the discrimination to other countries would be helpful. In the United States, the people who are discriminated against are very different from the people who are discriminated against in Europe or Africa. This could remove some of the genetic qualifications and give a wide sample pool that would give scientists and doctors an accurate, and more importantly diverse, pool of respondents. Nonetheless, it is a logical conclusion that if you go through something as stressful as constant (or even sporadic) discrimination, the stress of that would have a negative impact on your health.

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