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Do We Teach Racism in Medical School?

Joye M. Carter, BA, MD, J and M Forensic Consulting Firm, 2616 Ridgewood Street, Houston, TX 77006, 713-522-8037, JoyeMCarterMD@AOL.com

Is it possible that physicians' attitudes toward their patients are greatly influenced by the medical school education system? The process of grouping patients by race is an overlooked concept that often leads medical professionals to assume that the signs and symptoms of certain diseases do not appear in various ethnic and racial groups. If not for the ethnic categories taught to medical students some of the attitudes in our physician populations would not exist.

Where did the notion that African Americans wait too late for medical treatment in breast cancer come from? How is it that Sickle Cell Disease has been labeled as a "Black" disease and the screening has been limited to those of African ancestry and not the greater population? Is heart disease a disease of white males only? These thought patterns can make a diagnosis of a common disease more difficult if we continue to teach medical school education on outmoded racial and ethnic concepts. How did we get to this point?

Let's look at how lack of cultural awareness has controlled how doctors think about diseases and their presentations in various patients. Actual medical school textbooks will be examined for their contributions to the lack of cultural competency in treating patients. Perhaps changing the way disease and patients are described will change the way medical students and physicians approach the sick patient.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Education, Barriers to Care

Related Web page: www.joyemcarter.com

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Cultural Competency/Diversity: The Final Frontier in U.S. Healthcare: Academic Preparedness From a Multicultural Point of View

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA