Diversifying Medical School?!

In the article A Silent Curriculum, Brooks states “As soon as racism was mentioned, conversations fizzled, highlighting the palpable discomfort in the room. These attempts to address race may be reflective of a community eager to understand these issues.” Brooks is stating that racism is an uncomfortable subject for future doctors yet the subject of race is continually sought for further understanding. Reading this quote made me think of a classroom that was predominately white with little minority representation.

If the problem is having more “relatable” medical students to be future doctors, shouldn’t the solution be to diversify medical schools by ensuring minority groups with the same opportunities as their white counterparts?

Obesity Gene

Dr. Jack Yanovski has been studying the BDNF gene to understand how it works. Previous studies have shown that this gene may lead to weight gain and obesity. But what was not known until recently is how. BDNF protein adjusts satiety cues and promotes feelings of fullness. The recent study shows that minor variations in the gene can alter the BDNF protein levels in the brain, which can lead to obesity. Thus, if an individual has lower levels of BDNF protein, they have a higher risk of becoming obese. In their study, they found that African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to having to this gene being modified. More tests need to be done, but the hope is that by understanding BDNF, drugs can be developed to help stabilize BDNF levels.

There are two main ideas that this article brings up that I will critique: racial/ethnic disparities and medicalization of obesity.

Racial/ ethnic disparities implies is that there are biological differences between ethnic groups. These differences in biology would make one group more susceptible to disease than another. The problem with this argument is that it completely does not take environmental factors into consideration. Minorities have a socioeconomic disadvantage. Since they have a low SES, there are numerous factors at play regarding their health. They live in food deserts where supermarkets are hard to find. What you’re most likely to find are mom and pop stores that sell a lot of unhealthy options. Also, the lack of finances does not leave much money to actually spend on food. Unhealthy, processed and packaged food is cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables. All these external conditions is bound to change the internal composition of the body. Genes can change over time depending on what we put into our bodies.

By medicalizing obesity, we are pointing our fingers at biology as the cause. If we blame biology and our genetic makeup for weight gain, then we have to turn to medicine to cure it. Thus, people are going to be going to the doctors for medication or other medical interventions to cure their obesity. We are no longer promoting changing eating habits, exercise, or other lifestyle changes to being healthier. It’s no longer about working hard to overcome obesity, but going to the doctor so that he or she can magically cure you.

Article: http://www.wallstreetotc.com/how-obesity-gene-really-works/221310/

Social Economic Status and Race Leading to Unfairness in the Justice System

This discussion post doesn’t come directly from the readings for the week, but the general ideas from the readings apply well. Last night I watched a Vice documentary about President Obama’s visit to jail in his quest to reform the criminal justice system. One part of the documentary really stood out to me. A police officer being interviewed said that he was instructed to go to neighborhoods where young african americans lived, in search for people age 18-24 in possession of drugs. He was instructed to make arrests for any amount of drug, whether recreational or intent to sell. The cop then said if he went to a white neighborhood instead, with the same strategy, he would make just as many arrests as he did in the african american neighborhoods.

It seems as if cops are preying on easy targets. These cops travel to lower social economic status regions in search of arresting targets who may not have enough money to hire a lawyer or pay fines to get out of going to prison. The documentary continues to talk about how people end up getting trapped in a system where after they get out of jail, it’s impossible to get a job to pay fines to prevent getting sent back to jail.

How does someones SES effect their discrimination in the face of the law? Can our generalizations about the disadvantage of race also be extended to the justice system? Do flaws in our justice system promote these endless cycles of low SES? If so, these cycles can lead to less healthy lives for people involved and their families.

Why are we ignoring the importance of socioeconomic status?

We’ve become all too familiar with the racial disparities that African Americans have faced, and continue to face on a day to day basis. African Americans have constantly been faced with social disadvantages, including “poor heredity, neglect of infants, bad dwellings, poor food, and unsanitary living conditions” (Williams and Sternhal, pg. S16). African Americans have also been noted to have among the lowest socioeconomic statuses of all races, which have detrimental and perpetuating effects on healthcare, access to education, living environments, job opportunities, etc. Racial segregation also has a huge impact on African Americans, as “blacks currently live under a level of segregation that is higher than that of any other immigrant group in U.S. history” (Williams and Sternhal, pg. S20).

It’s evident in Williams and Sternhal’s article, Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health : Sociological Contributions, that these issues that African Americans face have stemmed from a historical lineage of constant oppression and stratification. It has also been highlighted the importance of approaching these issues from a socioeconomic standpoint, rather than just a basic race stance. Race has already been proved to have absolutely no biological context to it, and is simply a social construct that we as a society have created. “Sociological research has shown that differences in SES affect patterns and trajectories of health in important ways” (Williams and Sternhal, S21). Analyzing social issues from a socioeconomic point of view has given sociologists not only a better image of the problem, but an even better image of possible solutions to such a perpetuating problem. Since SES includes the many aspects that simply “race” does not, including education, living conditions, income level, etc., sociologists are able to isolate problems and provide reasonings and methods as to ways of combatting the problem.

My question begins with this: It is clear that the general consensus among many sociologists is that socioeconomic status can provide much insight into why exactly certain racial problems exist, and in what ways they’re affecting a racial group. SES is also extremely helpful in determining solutions and rationalizing these persisting problems, evident from Williams and Sternhals paper. Why is it, then, that the U.S. public system continues to report national health data by race? To put it in context, “For over 100 years, the U.S. public health system has routinely reported national health data by race. Instructively, although SES differences in health are typically larger than racial ones, health status differences by SES are seldom reported, and only very rarely are data on health status presented by race and SES simultaneously” (Williams and Sternhal, S22). Why are health status differences by SES seldom reported, when it is in fact SES that helps determine solutions and preventative measures in order to fix such a persisting problem? Is the U.S. public system trying to purposely hide such a significant problem, or are they avoiding the potentially costly measures we need to take in order to fix the problems we see through socioeconomic status?

COLOR BLIND

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”

Doctor’s Racism Plays a role in Patient Care, Too

Today I read a disturbing article by Maggie Fox called “Black Kids Get Less Pain Medication Than White Kids in ER.” It specifically addresses appendicitis, a common emergency surgery for many teenagers. Even though painkillers are strongly recommended in any appendicitis surgery, only about half of African American children are given painkillers. Not only that, but the article discusses how black patients with severe pain are less likely to be given opiods, even though this painkiller treatment is routinely given to white patients during post-surgery pain management. However, this is not because doctors perceive African Americans as having pain; in contrast, according to the article, research has found that clinicians do indeed recognize pain equally for all groups—clinicians are simply less inclined to give black patients proper pain treatment and management.

Even though I found this article disturbing, I did not find it shocking. The USA has a long history of discrimination and systematic racism against African Americans, whether it be in the healthcare system, in the prison system, in education, in housing, or in the welfare system. Thus, racist biases from clinicians are not surprising, but rather, are unfortunately nothing short of expected. Nonetheless, this article and other articles that stress these racist biases need to be more publicized in the media to allow greater awareness about the continuing injustices Blacks continually face.

Continue reading “Doctor’s Racism Plays a role in Patient Care, Too”