Recent events in Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas have once again shocked our collective consciousness. As we find out more over the coming days, I couldn't help but draw some parallels between law enforcement and those of us in the medical community. Read the full post at Physician's Money Digest (PMD). An excerpt is provided below.
Given the recent events in Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas, the topics of institutional racism and police brutality are again in the public consciousness. President Obama called these tragic events “not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we all should care about.” I want to draw some parallels between law enforcement and the medical community.
I once had a mentor tell me (jokingly) regarding the USMLE Step 1 exam:
If the question involves a black man, then the answer must be sickle cell disease, HIV or multiple myeloma.
If it’s a black woman? Then it must be sarcoid.
It turned out he was more right than I wanted him to be. We racially stereotype in medicine every day – it’s a part of our diagnostic problem solving. But we don’t think of it as institutional racism or racism at all. Why? Perhaps it’s because we believe it’s simply pattern recognition? Maybe it’s because we believe we don’t attach any social judgement to the pattern? But in reality, we do. If you encounter a young patient with infective endocarditis, try convincing me that you attach ZERO social judgement to that patient. In practice, institutional racism is ubiquitous in medicine. In fact, it’s often why “classic” cases are deemed “classic.”