Damon Tweedy is an African American doctor practicing in the US. He published a memoir in 2015 entitled ‘Black Man in a White Coat’ he breaks down the medical profession, health and race from his point of view in a predominantly white industry.
His diagnosis was harsh.
The bottom line:
Having more Black men as physicians in the US could actually save the lives of more African American men patients.
Diversity in the Medical Profession
Only 6% of US Doctors are Black
Tweedy believes diversity is a problem in the medical profession. There are very few doctors of color. And they, along with white doctors, tend to struggle trying to relate to African American patients… particularly Black men.
Check out this stat:
In 2018, the NY Times reported that only about 4% of all US physicians and surgeons are African Americans.
This is astounding considering the Black community continuously struggles with health issues in comparison to whites.
Why We Need More African American Men Physicians
According to a National Bureau of Economic Research paper, Black men tend to feel more comfortable talking about and taking health suggestions from physicians who look like them. Making them feel comfortable through diversity could lead to increased screenings.
This could help close the gap related to life expectancy between Black men and white men.
Damon Tweedy is also an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine. The Duke Alumni says:
“What that (patient) might need most is someone to reassure them that their concerns matter, that you care about what happens to them.”
Tweedy was interviewed by U.S. News. He spoke about medical bias and the Black-white gap in health outcomes, saying:
“They are a reflection of disparities in education, housing, jobs, income, geography and criminal justice; pretty much all of our systems ultimately impact health outcomes.
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The U.S. is still producing too few racial and ethnic minority physicians to assure quality health care for all. *According to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Facts & Figures report. https://www.aamc.org/download/432976/data/factsandfigures2010.pdf #ElevateMeD #MedicineMonday
Tweet from Black Doctor Goes Viral on Twitter
Recently, a Tweet thread went wild on Twitter. An African American doctor talked about a patient who couldn’t grasp the multiple sclerosis diagnosis the team gave him.
After they left the room, he returned alone and broke it down for him man to man… brother to brother.
Why we need more black men in medicine. I had a patient this week who came in with left leg weakness over the last week. Younger black guy in his 30s. Brain MRI clearly indicates multiple sclerosis. So we all go in during morning rounds to give my man his diagnosis.
— The Medical M.A.B. (@Oga_DoctorBlue) August 23, 2018
How to Reduce Mortality Rates for African American Men
In June 2018, the National Bureau for Economic Research published a study entitled ‘Does Diversity Matter for Health? Experimental Evidence from Oakland.’
This study involved 702 Black men recruited from an Oakland, California flea market and barbershops. They were sent to a local clinic for free health screenings. There were 14 men doctors involved… each one being Black, Asian or a White man.
Each recruit was assigned to one of the doctors for the following screenings:
- Blood Pressure
These were the results, according to the NY Times:
“Neither the men nor the doctors knew that the purpose of the study was to ask if a doctor’s race mattered when he or she advised these patients. As it turned out, the racial effects were not subtle.
Diabetes screening was part of the health check, and 63 percent of the Black men assigned to a Black doctor agreed to the screening. But just 43 percent of those assigned to a doctor who was White or Asian consented to be screened.
Some 62 percent of Black men with a Black doctor agreed to cholesterol tests, compared to 36 percent assigned to a doctor who was not Black.”
More Black Doctors Could Reduce Mortality Rate
The conclusion, per the researchers, is that the cardiovascular mortality gap between Black men and everyone else in America could be reduced by about 20% if they could see men who look like them for medical care.
These researchers concluded that the gap in cardiovascular mortality between Black men and the rest of the U.S. population could be reduced by up to 20 percent if more Black men could see their peers for medical care.
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