Maybe healthcare professionals aren’t racist, they just suffer from pride
Doctors should be required to wear body cameras to catch them being racist, a Yale University physician suggested recently.
Dr. Amanda Calhoun, described as an “expert in the mental health effects of anti-Black racism,” made the suggestion in a recent opinion piece for The Boston Globe. The post is hosted by the Globe through The Emancipator, a publication with Ibram Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research.
“If hospitals and medical institutions want to make good on those anti-racism statements made in 2020, prove it: Have health care professionals wear body cameras,” Dr. Calhoun wrote in the Globe. “As a patient, I would feel far more comfortable if they did. And as a doctor, I will volunteer to wear one first.”
Addressing the objections to patient privacy, Calhoun (pictured, with her husband) wrote that families “could consent to the release of body camera footage if they want to bring forward complaints of racism.”
In her argument, Calhoun makes the misleading claim, also promoted by Justice Ketanji Jackson in her affirmative action dissent opinion, that “Black infants are more likely to survive when cared for by Black physicians,” citing a Washington Post article that claimed the death rate is “cut dramatically.”
But as noted in the Wall Street Journal, that paper “examines mortality rates in Florida newborns between 1992 and 2015 and shows a 0.13% to 0.2% improvement in survival rates for black newborns with black pediatricians (though no statistically significant improvement for black obstetricians).”
The paper “also shows black doctors with a statistically significant higher mortality rate for white newborns, and a higher mortality rate overall, all else being equal,” according to the WSJ article.
Calhoun cites her own experience witnessing racism to make her point. “I have stood in the emergency department as a Black teenager died from a gunshot wound while White staff chuckled, saying he was ‘just another criminal,’” Calhoun said. (As a physician, it’s not clear why Calhoun would be standing there watching someone die due to racism. She is a psychiatrist by training but you’d think she would have done something to stop this event from happening).
“Three years have passed since George Floyd was murdered by police, prompting the release of antiracism pledges across a myriad of national medical organizations,” she wrote. “Yet Black Americans still are suffering from medical violence, which kills through delays in medical care, pain undertreatment and misdiagnoses.”
Calhoun also blames “white nurses” for poor treatment of her sister, who was suffering from an allergic reaction.
Despite my mom’s insistence that my 9-year-old sister could be suffering from a deadly allergic reaction and seemed to be wheezing, White nurses refused to treat her with urgency, leaving them sitting in the waiting room. Without even properly examining my sister, the nurses informed my mother she would have detected a nut allergy earlier in my sister’s life if it was serious.
For Calhoun, the reason must be racism. Of course, there are other reasonable explanations. The nurses were understaffed. They were not given proper training. Our medical system, particularly emergency care, can be a mess. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that racism had to have been the cause.
I’ll suggest another general response to claims that medical professionals are racist because they do not listen to black patients or they appear to be arrogant – healthcare workers on the whole can have problems with pride and being in an echo chamber.
Ask anyone who has given birth, it doesn’t matter the race, how their experience was in the hospital and I bet most would have some complaint about their preferences not being respected.
Many medical professionals do live in an echo chamber and unfortunately suffer from at least some pride. The solution is better training on pride and listening to patients – not putting a body camera on them to try to catch them being “racist.”
IMAGE: Amanda Joy Calhoun/Instagram