Daily Archives: September 9, 2011

** Seeing Patients by Augustus White III

Seeing Patients tries to do two things: to tell the story of the author, an African-American orthopedic surgeon born and raised in Memphis in the 19030’s, and to advance his observations that racism and other isms are all too present in medical care and require more attention in the training of physicians.

The life story is engrossing, inspiring, and often shocking when the author recounts how he repeatedly attended schools, from high school onward, that admitted only a (very small) handful of non-White students. As he said, could it really be the case that only 4 black students could be found in the entire country to attend a well-known medical school? On a more positive note, his personal curiosity and drive allowed him to be elected president of his fraternity (even if that resulted in ugly exclusion at the national level), to volunteer in a leper hospital while he was in Vietnam, to spend time in Sweden to do research and be astonished to find that no one thought anything of his race, and to discover the rather insane world of admission committees in high-stake medical school — as an admissions officer this time!

I did not think that the discussion of unconscious (we hope!)  bias in medicine was as successful, mostly because there seems to be more important barriers to health care in the US, such as cost and access, although the author would argue that even people with theoretically equal access can be treated quite differently. Interestingly it seems to be that choosing a physician who is like you (in gender, race, age, and background) may be a very good strategy, while hoping for biases to dissipate…

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