The Minorities in Medicine Myth

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During CNN’s townhall meeting with President Biden, a black couple asked the President what he was doing about the violence in the inner cities.  I deal with that subject in a different commentary.  This one is about CNN’s morning program in which the same couple was asked what they thought of Biden’s response.  They were okay with it, but it did not go far enough.  But that is not the part of the interview that caught my attention.

The wife, a medical worker, changed the subject. She was concerned that too many black folks were not getting vaccinated (disproving the theory that only Republicans are avoiding the shot). 

She blamed the fears of older black people who remember the horrible Tuskegee medical experiments in which black men were left to die of syphilis even though the penicillin cure was available.  She said that black folks are reluctant to take advise from white medical professionals.  She wanted to see more people who looked like her in the upper ranks of the medical profession – doctors, researchers and scientists.  They would be more effective messengers, she opined.

She seemed like a very intelligent and nice person, but I could not help but wonder where she got the impression that people-of-color – to use the new expression – are not well represented in the medical field.  I am sure she believes what she said, but how could she miss the obvious facts.

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Perception is a funny thing.  As President Lincoln said, “Widely held beliefs, whether well or ill-founded, have the impact of fact.” 

In reality, the medical profession is highly populated with minority men and woman.  Of the several times I have had to deal with a nurse in recent years, I have never dealt with a white nurse.  They were all black.  That is not a complaint.  I have no preference except for quality of service – and I have had no bad experiences. 

I also notice that a large percentage of the doctors I see being interviewed on television about Covid-19 – pushing the need to get vaccinated — are also minorities – African, Indian, Asian and Hispanic.  Two of the most famous television doctors are Sanjay Gupta on CNN and Vin Gupta on MSNBC (no relation, I assume).  The Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is Indian — and his predecessor is black.

I am a big fan of minority doctors.  In my own experience, the three finest doctors I ever had care for me – literally saving my life on two occasions – were a Muslim, a Hindi and a Chinese doctor.

Racism has become a significant political issue.  I still maintain that it is not prevalent among the American people but is mostly confined to the institutional racism that is clearly seen in the operations of our major cities.  And which party has been running them for generations?  I had to ask.

What bothered me about the interview was the wife’s presumption and suggestion of racism where it obviously does not exist. It is even more ironic that this woman would see racism in the medical ranks when she, herself, is black. 

If significant numbers of blacks are refusing to get vaccinated, it is NOT because they are not getting advise from people who look like her – as she contends.  Rather than dwell on that misinformation, we should investigate the real reason for the low vaccination rate among minorities.

So, there ‘tis.

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