America needs more black doctors, particularly black male doctors, so that black people will have more access to providers who are culturally connected to them—who understand their lives and their challenges as much as their clinical needs, according to an opinion piece co-authored by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s David Williams.
Doctors’ “cultural competence” can have an important impact on their patients’ health, wrote Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard Chan School, along with co-author Fitzhugh Mullan of George Washington University, in a January 16, 2017 STAT article. They cited one study that found that white doctors were less empathetic to black patients near the end of their lives than black doctors were. Another study found that a group of medical students thought, wrongly, that blacks’ blood coagulates faster than that of whites, and that blacks have more pain tolerance than whites.
In spite of a growing minority population, there are currently fewer black males applying to and attending medical school than in 1978, according to the authors. “The talents of young men who would make outstanding doctors are being wasted since so few make it into the medical profession,” they wrote.
Read the STAT article: Why we need more black doctors
Racial discrimination and health (Harvard Chan School news)
Racial bias and its effect on health care (Harvard Chan School feature)