Racism in Clinical Practice

In the article “A Silent Curriculum,” the author describes the ways she has seen racism play a part in the medical community from the medical student/doctor’s point of view. It shows that it affects how a person is treated, the amount and kind of treatment they receive, and if that person receives priority in the emergency room and during hospital stays; however, the author tells us that in med school they are told that sometimes you have to look at race when you are making a judgment call on their type of treatment, because different races are affected differently. Is this advice given in med school based on biological evidence or is it something that doctors began to assume after spending time in the field and actually seeing it in action? Or is it truly just racism causing a bias in the doctor’s decision?

Racism is also something that is ingrained in the minds of a lot of people outside the medical community. I have encountered people who do not even realize that they are being discriminatory due to their ignorance; however, lately, people have been becoming more and more aware of the blatant racism in our society and have been defending and calling people out on social media and in the news for their ignorant acts of discrimination. Is it possible that this problem of bias in the medical community can be fixed with our generation rising to med school? Or is it so deeply rooted in the mindset of society that it cannot be eradicated completely?

The Breast Cancer Racial Gap

In the New York Times article “A Grim Breast Cancer Milestone for Black Women” Tara Parker discusses the “dubious milestone” African American women have recently reached. According to the American Cancer Society the incidence of breast cancer among black women is now equal to that of their white counterparts. This is troublesome for the women of the African American community because statistically they are more likely to die from breast cancer. Now that the incidence rate in African American women has gone up it is expected to broaden the mortality gap between black and white women.

What changes have occurred in recent years that have led to more black women being diagnosed with breast cancer? Could it just be that early diagnosis is allowing doctors to recognize more cases?

While, early diagnosis is discussed as a contributing factor it is not enough to explain this great of a raise in the trends. It is rather obesity and a change in reproductive patterns that is increasing the risk of breast cancer in black women. So this explains why black women are being diagnosed, but does not explain the higher mortality rate. Parker attributes this to several factors including the lack of availability of that black women have to quality health care compared to white women. In addition to the fact that black women are more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a form of the disease which has a worse prognosis than estrogen-receptor positive disease, the most treatable form of breast cancer; more commonly found in white women.

This disturbing statistic that projects that African American women are 70 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women speaks to on going inequalities in our health care system. Why is it than in 2015 race still plays a role in the quality of care that a person receives? I believe that these disparities date back to policies and the lack there of in previous decades and gives us reason to modify our health care system so that it benefits everyone equally. Because the perpetuation of the current United States health care system will continue to indirectly kill black women.

Just because black women lack the insurance coverage and access that their white counterparts have to seek and pay for quality treatment does not mean that they should continue to suffer more. This also speaks to the lack of standardization of care in the United States. The only way to fix the system so that race does not continue to be a determining factor in the quality of treatment is equalization of our hospitals, medical schools, insurance policies, pharmaceutical research studies and medical facilities across the board.

The inequalities in our health care system stem from social and economic policies that have failed to equalize the social and economic statuses of communities, neighborhoods, and cities across the nation. To start enacting change we need to start on a small scale and then work our way up from there. At the community level African American women need to be more informed about breast cancer, how it could potentially affect them and ways to seek preventative care. At state and possibly federal levels universal coverage plans need to be enacted so that lack of insurance is not a death sentence. People who lack insurance turn life saving treatments and even preventative care down everyday and this should not be the case. Until the health care system is equalized, the mortality gap between black in white women will continue to widen; because the system we have now is not operating in favor of black women, but against them.


Gender Creates Inequalities

In discussion, we talked more about the nature of gender inequalities and the disparities among health outcomes. I thought it was very interesting to see how social institutions, stigmas,  and our history, affect health outcomes. I once read an article that discussed children born to mothers who were in New York City during the time of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Research found that these children were more prone to developing anxiety since their mothers experienced severe stress while they were in the womb. Women seem to have more health problems than men, is this disparity directly related to the social oppression seen in women’s history?


In “Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health : Sociological Contributions”, David Williams and Michelle Sternthal explore racial and ethnic inequalities in health in the United States. Personally, I am a proponent of color-blindness, but I question if it is a possibility in America’s future. The section of this publication titled “Racism and Health” opened my eyes to the concrete data and evidence that shows that our nation is still inherently racist, both intentionally and unintentionally. Williams and Sternthal reveal the very real presence of racial segregation that remains in this nation to this day, and this concerns me greatly.

Is institutional and wide-spread color-blindness a possibility in the future here in the United States? What, if anything, can/must be done to bring this change about? Is segregation and racism an unavoidable and everlasting aspect of our cultural fabric now?

Continue reading “COLOR BLIND”

Income Inequalities With Old Age

On the very first day of lecture, we learned in class that there is a difference between sociology in medicine and sociology of medicine. The former means that we accept the basic principles of medicine, but the latter means that we are analyzing medicine from outside the medical system and challenging accepted beliefs and ideas claimed in this complex field. In this article titled “Income Inequality Grows With Age and Shapes Later Years,” the writer tells a story of two senior women who both grew up in frugal households but lived very different lives throughout their adult and elderly years. Continue reading “Income Inequalities With Old Age”