A Brief History of Medical Racism and Resources for Today [Monday Memo]
In order to fully understand racism it’s important to look at how racism and white supremacy affect every facet of our society. Medicine is no different; in this week's Monday Memo we will discuss today’s medical biases rooted in racism and anti-blackness, a brief history of medical racism, and resources for black people in the United States to seek the mental and physical health care that they deserve.
Racism In Our Current Medical Climate
Both Covid-19 and the protests of 2020 have spotlighted systemic medical racism in many ways on a local and national scale.
Well before the George Floyd protests began earlier this year, there have been discussions of institutionalized medical racism presenting itself in various ways:
This article discusses a widespread photo of content from a Pearson medical textbook depicting generalized, fact-less racial stereotypes about pain tolerance. This textbook has since been removed from the publisher.
While there have been a number of articles published in recent days on the topic of black babies and black mothers being of higher risk of death during and after childbirth, this topic is not new in the media nor in research, which leads to us exploring the history of racism in medicine and how it has trickled down to still negatively affect patient care today.
Racism In Medicine’s Past
Content warning: graphically describes non-consensual medical procedures
A more in depth look at some of the instances mentioned in the Vox video above:
What Can Be Done?
Many health care institutions and schools have discussed introducing implicit bias training to help medical students and health care professionals recognize when their unconscious racial bias may influence their decision making skills. The goal of these programs is to provide tools to re-frame thinking in order to provide safer and more effective health care to non-white patients:
Making mental and physical health care more accessible to underserved communities also leads to better health and wellbeing. There are many organizations working to make this possible, to teach people of color how to access better health care and how to advocate for themselves in a health care environment:
A database for helping those in the Latinx community find therapists of similar backgrounds
Udodiri R. Okwandu is a Doctorate student in the History of Science at Harvard University studying the links between social and science. She works to trace the histories of unethical medical practices used in the United States from the 19th century to present a history of racial inequality within the medical treatment industry. This video is long but definitely worth the watch and explores some topics not covered in this article.