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.