As the month of February comes to an end, the social awareness surrounding Black History Month starts to lessen as March 1st approaches. With Black History Month almost over, we must not forget to be constantly aware of how our actions may affect our colleagues and patients. As incoming clinicians, it is up to us to change the environmental setting in healthcare to create a safer environment for people of color.
Data collected throughout the pandemic only shows how much work needs to be done regarding racism in medicine. At the start of the pandemic in May 2020, a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine stated that Black Americans were 3.57 times more like to die from COVID-19 than White Americans. There are a multitude of factors that can contribute to this difference, such as availability of health insurance, physician shortages in certain neighborhoods, adequate teaching on COVID-19, and implicit bias.
Per the United States Census Bureau 2021 data, 13.4% of the population identifies as being African American which is roughly around 44 million individuals. In health care, people of color only make up 5% of working physicians—an extremely small percentage compared to the diversity of the general population.
In order to take better care of our patients and become bigger supports for our medical colleagues, here are a few things us white medical students can start doing now:
- Use your voice as a medical student.
- Take a test online to see if you have any implicit biases.
- Don’t wait for them to speak up. Reach out and ask how you can help.
- Educate yourself on diversity.
- Understand that you will never fully understand how they feel.
- Listen intently to concerns they may have.
- Don’t pretend that race isn’t something you should think about.
As a white medical student, I still have a lot of learning to do myself in order to become a better ally, but I am constantly seeking ways to create a safer and healthier environment for the people around me. So, let us all work to keep an open mind and realize that Black History Month isn’t just a month-long celebration of cultural strength, but a reminder that we should all be working as future clinicians to eliminate racial disparities.
Read more by Cidney.