Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The more things change, the more they stay the same................

About 8 years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the wife of one of the original Tuskegee Airmen on the metro of all places and it was so much fun to hear history from someone who was actually there! My only regret from that meeting was that I didn't get the woman's contact info as the elderly are my favorite people next to babies. And by now she is likely watching me type this from heaven..................

But this post isn't really about these famous men who were initially denied their right to fly planes during WWII because "negroes have bad night vision" among other stupid claims of the day. This post is about the fact that in 2011, future medical students can't talk about the Tuskegee experiment, health disparities or anything else that requires a discussion relating to race. And for the record, I'm NOT talking about that top premed website either. Nope not this time.........

Anyone who has followed my blog long enough knows that I speak from a place of truth when I write, MY truth, which sometimes has to occasion to offend (and probably the reason I only have a handful of people who don't mind publicly claiming that they follow my blog, LOL!!! Speaking of that, HUGE shout out to my loyal but "silent" visitors, I luv ya'll!!)) And while that's never my intention I do recall the old adage that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. But I guess when it comes to health disparities and the role I feel racism plays in why they exist, I don't give a rat's booty about honey, vinegar or anything else when this subject is discussed. And I don't find sticking one's head in the sand about this issue to be particularly useful either.

But in the sand is exactly where a LOT of people, future physicians it seems, want their heads to be and quite frankly that's a dangerous situation IMHO. You see, when a well-to-do Black, highly educated, married couple in their 30's can walk into an ER located in one of the wealthiest counties in the US, with the wife complaining of abdominal pain, and the doctor diagnose her with PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), with out ANY lab results, someone either needs to check their racial prejudices at the ER door, needs a refresher in the basic principles of epidemiology, or both. And if this same woman got "diagnosed" with HPV 10 years earlier, when she was married and highly educated, once again without ANY microbiology to confirm the diagnosis, then it's probably no wonder why said, educated, Black woman has a "problem" with the medical establishment when it comes to racism in healthcare (and for the record, said Black woman is neither HPV positive nor did she suffer from PID as confirmed by her lab results).

So maybe this is a case of people needing to be in your shoes to understand where you're coming from. For example, how would a highly educated, well dressed, well-to-do white married couple feel if they walked into Howard hospital ER after the husband had a tooth knocked out after a fall, and he was subsequently "diagnosed" with being a meth user in the first 5 minutes of the "exam"?? How would they feel????

Clearly I don't have all the solutions, but I think a few things would help. Admitting more URM's would certainly be a good first step and providing full scholarships to these students who agreed to practice in underserved areas for a specified amount of time would make it extra appealing. But I also think full scholarships to non URM students who agree to do the same would be equally as beneficial. Many times people only hear the words that are coming from people who look like them, and if the bottom line is more culturally sensitive, more compassionate Docs, then ultimately it's a win-win for ALL of us!

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