What Racism in Medicine Takes From Us - Allison Young

Image from Unsplash by Piron Guillaume

In my last three discussions, I delineated some of the challenges faced by the African American community in obtaining quality healthcare and becoming a physician. I also proposed an approach to increasing the number of physicians serving this population. This month I would like to share an article written by Jennifer Adaeze Okwerkwu, an African American practicing physician who describes some of the challenges both in medical education and in medical practice.

Please enjoy and be enlightened!

Some excerpts from the article:

“I thought I had received a good education. I had attended a prestigious high school in upstate New York. As the oldest independent day school for girls in the United States, my school prided itself on its historical legacy. But when confronted by this huge gap in my knowledge, I realized I had received a white education — one that had robbed me, a Black student, of my own historical legacy.

“As a doctor, my education, both what I know and how I have come to know it, has continued to be shaped by the privileging of white norms and experiences. From the exclusion of Black and brown skin from dermatology textbooks to the lack of illustration of Black fetuses in OB-GYN texts, Western medicine is largely concerned with caring for white bodies, to the detriment of others. My own specialty is also guilty of scientific racism. Psychiatric diagnoses have been historically weaponized against people of color to justify systems of oppression. As a Black psychiatrist, I often feel haunted by the prescriptions I offer my patients to salve the anxiety they feel in the face of police brutality or the uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Yet agitation in the face of oppression is healthy. Racism is the disease.

“I need time to heal the wounds from my own battles and figure out how I can develop a strengths-based approach to uplifting Black and brown people in medicine that does not center the sins of the white medical establishment. Fighting racism will not be the central story of my personal or professional life. I’m discovering that Black doctors deserve peace.

“As Cornel West explains, “justice is what love looks like in public.” Justice will be achieved when diversity in the physician workforce becomes the default and when the field divests itself of racism. Caring for all people should be a core principle of our profession, not a side project.”

Here is the original article.

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