Diversity and its effects on the Physician – Patient relationship
Diversity in the healthcare field is important simply because our patient population is not composed of only one ethnicity. If the healthcare system mirrored the patient population, there would be more providers available to educate their colleagues on cultural competency. I have only been in medical school for less than a year and already some statements made by my classmates have put into perspective the importance of having diversity in medicine.
For example, one of my Caucasian classmates told a story about his grandmother working as an X-Ray technician in the African-American hospital, when segregation existed. His grandmother was giving an African-American male an X-Ray and he thought she was trying to cause him harm. In order to try to calm the patient down, she asked two other Caucasian physicians to calm the male down. My classmate proceeded to talk about how the patient had no reason to think that his grandmother was doing anything wrong. He did not see how bringing two other Caucasian doctors into the situation could further alarm the patient. My classmate was not wrong to have this opinion because he and I were raised in two different environments and he may not have the cultural competency to show him a different viewpoint of the situation. My perspective of the story is that the patient had a valid concern of the situation at hand; to think that the woman may be doing something wrong to him. I also believe bringing in two more Caucasian doctors into the picture only heightened the patient’s concerns and fears.
The situation described above is part of the history as to why minorities may not go to the physician’s office, underscoring a lack of trust between the physician and patient. Until the barrier is broken and the trust regained, this may be part of the larger reason why some minorities will not go to the physician’s office and get the necessary treatment needed. One way this barrier can be broken and healthcare disparities decreased is by diversifying the face of medicine. Also, if we have a diverse workforce then we will be able to work together to solve the problems of healthcare disparities. On the other hand, lack of diversity in healthcare can lead to solutions that not only are monolithic but exclusive in many ways also.