As we discussed in class, health and illness are not only shaped by biological factors, but also, more importantly, by social determinants. Many social factors, including SES, race and ethnicity, age, sex and gender, and geographical location affect health outcomes. Specifically, there are profound differences between gender groups and ethnic groups. For instance, it is well-documented that African-Americans have higher mortality at each age as well as higher infant mortality, HIV disease, and homicide compared to their white counterparts. In “Social Death as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,” Timmermans writes, “Epidemiological studies, however, suggest that race, gender, and socioeconomic status play a statistically significant role in overall survival of patients in sudden cardiac arrest” (335). Timmermans continues to state that “black victims of cardiac arrest receive CPR less frequently than white victims” (336). Thus, to what extent are the mortality data that we currently have on the different ethnic groups and gender groups attributed to, in the case of African-Americans, a lack of CPR efforts? In order words, how many deaths could have been prevented by CPR, but were not as a result of racism or discrimination by the staff? It is sickening to me that “the staff rations their efforts based on a hierarchy of lives they consider worth living and others for which they believe death is the best solution” (Timmermans 336). As Dr. Paul Farmer said, “The idea that some lives matter more than others is the root of all that is wrong with this world.” It is unfortunate that society can decide which lives matter more, when, in fact, all lives matter.
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?
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?
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?
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.