In a recent Wall Street Journal article, the authors equate teaching future doctors about “diversity, equity, and inclusion competencies” to “political re-education” and “wokeness.” They claim that “hyper-class and -racial consciousness that the AAMC wants to instill in doctors may result in worse care for minorities.” Additionally, they predict that it will be difficult to attract new students to medicine if they must “attend to their guilt as racial and political oppressors before they can diagnose your cancer.”
The predominant culture in medicine is still one lacking inclusion and equity. Just look to the last quote above and you’ll see that the authors are addressing a White culture. They fail to address Black, Latino, and other minority races in their comments.
As it stands, many highly qualified individuals are left out of medicine due to inequality. It may not be intentional, but it exists. According to the AAMC, 5.8% of practicing US physicians reported to be Hispanic and 5.0% Black. These statistics do not represent our society.
Medicine is still largely a White, male culture. While many may cite other reasons that minorities represent a smaller portion of physicians, especially those in leadership positions, it stands to reason that bias plays a major role. Minorites are often passed up for competitive positions. Patients with complex diseases need a whole team to take care of them, and any bias, apparent or not, needs to be addressed and removed, along with exclusion, racism, and sexism. As the predicted physician shortage rolls out, we need the best hands on deck.
Despite being in the 21st century, people have not overcome racism. In fact, many of our political leaders still seem to struggle with this problem. When our lawmakers can’t mount the racial divide, it spurs further acts of racism. We all saw the unrest that occurred following the George Floyd incident. In medicine, the whole focus should be on treating patients. Any tension, racial or otherwise, that creates a hostile or uncomfortable environment makes it more difficult to treat patients.
With many conditions, minority patients have worse outcomes than White patients. This has been shown in hundreds of studies. Many causes potentially explain this, including distrust of medical professionals. Many female patients choose to see me because I am a woman. Patients tend to trust, and feel more comfortable seeking medical care from, those who look and talk like them. We need diversity to address this. Patients’ lives depend on it.