Thursday, June 16, 2011

Seeing Patients:Unconscious Bias In Heath Care

There are few people I looked up to more, during my time at Harvard and living in Boston, than HMS Professor Augustus "Gus" White, MD, PhD. "Gus" holds many 'first' distinctions, including his tenure as the first black chief surgeon (orthopaedic) at a Harvard teaching hospital (Beth Israel).

When Gus speaks, smart people listen. He has written a book (pictured) on racial bias in medicine. The book is part autobiography, but in typical fashion it is also a challenge for change. He writes how minorities, particularly blacks, receive different treatment than whites, from pain medications to operations like lung cancer, hip replacements, angioplasty, and also recommended preventive treatments, including flu vaccines and colonoscopies. While never one to shy from controversy, Gus reveals how even the best-intentioned physicians in our society continue a bias that has them fail their oath to do no harm.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

If I hadn't read this post, I would have had no idea that the man in that photo was black. This is an example of the one-drop rule in action. He must have significantly more white ancestry than black.

James C. Collier said...

Anon 1:16, the one-drop rule was but one aspect of the poor foresight displayed by the founders of this country.