Category: Discrimination

Tackling Racial Disparity in Cancer Care

Check this out. What you will see is a necessarily long article on a complicated topic. Article after article I perused in the last week speaks to different aspects of racial inequality encountered in healthcare. I read one by a Black ER doctor describing the myriad different kinds of racism he faces daily in his job. Another article cried out for racial bias reduction training in medical schools. Etc. Etc.

But this article grabbed me because of its specificity to the treatment of cancer patients. This piece doesn’t talk about undoing prejudice that is deeply rooted in history. Not exactly a quick fix. Nope! It talks about the importance of attaining a singular pragmatic endpoint, completion of therapy, and the benefits of interventions like providing patients, like the woman pictured above, with transportation to get to the therapy site, and nurse navigators and computer systems being employed to help in the effort. 

Bottom Line. Over the past several years that I have been examining paths toward racial equity in healthcare, I have become increasingly impressed with pragmatic interventions like this that can make a real difference and do it now! Sure, there are loftier goals, like eliminating racial prejudice. But think about it this way. Which is the more certain path, with quicker benefits? Eliminating racism to eliminate healthcare disparity or reducing healthcare disparity and having the effects of that pragmatic shift start to whittle away at prejudicial attitudes? 

As this article clearly points out, option B is going to start to save cancer patients’ lives far more quickly. Let’s learn from studies like this one, which identified practical barriers getting in the way of health equity in cancer care, and start to eliminate them! Now!!!

“Drag Nuns,” Mandatory Face Masks, a Pandemic, and Uber

Silly me. I had never heard of “drag nuns,” nor was I aware that there seems to be a business opportunity in having groups of them perform. So check this out. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this piece, because its point is a simple one. That is, Uber and Lyft drivers cannot legally discriminate against LGBTQ passengers or Blacks. BUT. They can refuse rides to passengers not wearing masks. SO. They simply report to their company that someone whose appearance is unacceptable or scary to them is not wearing a mask, and off they drive without the aforementioned potential passenger in the car.

Bottom Line., So what’s my point here? Like I said, a simple one! The COVID-19 pandemic has now been knit into all kinds of social controversies. “Mask Mandates.” “Vaccine Mandates.” News reports of people getting injured in fights breaking out between groups on opposite sides of these issues. And now this. Masks, or the purported absence thereof, being used as excuses for otherwise unacceptable discriminatory behavior.

My guess? These psychological perturbations that have resulted from the pandemic will linger in our society long after the virus itself has been brought under control! 


Health Care Inequity

Check this out. What you will see, as I increasingly find myself saying, is something that will not surprise you but will shock you. An extremely well written piece on how racial discrimination leads to health care inequity in the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of cancer. Big time!!!

BUT. There are, however, geographic “bright spots.” Areas of the US where the disparities in cancer outcomes between blacks and whites are significantly smaller than the national averages.  Here’s a question. Why???

Here’s the more important question. How do we get these health equity bright spots’ characteristics to spread to other areas of the US? 

Across the pharmaceutical industry, we are increasingly, and gratefully, seeing a genuine commitment to helping to reduce racial health inequity. Here at ThinkGen, we are joining in that effort. We have partnered with Volunteers In Medicine (VIM) on Hilton Head Island, SC, and as a board member at that organization, I have the opportunity to be a “participant observer” in an organization that serves over 10,000 previously underserved patients, 90% of them being of color.  Using ethnographic methods over the next few months, I am going to increasingly focus on getting an understanding of the innermost workings of such an organization, and then go on to study a series of Federally Qualified Health Centers to find out their “backstories.” How they work, how are they different from other medical settings and how pharmaceutical companies can help. I will be sharing my findings with you here.

Bottom Line.  As demonstrated at today’s referenced URL, racial health inequity can be reduced. But we need to know more about “how” so that we can develop appropriate strategies and tactics to go beyond lip service.

What can you do today to help in the effort to make that happen?


Want to get really angry about the human condition in 2021? Check this out. What you will see is a qualitative study that demonstrates that physicians of color are “routinely” subjected to significant racism. In fact, it’s a trifecta. They report being discriminated against by their institutions, by their colleagues and even by their patients. About one quarter of doctors of color reported that patients had actually declined treatment due to the race of the practitioner. Good grief!

And the authors of this piece use an interesting term, “microaggressions,” to refer to such experiences. Somehow, I am reminded of the old expression, “Like being nibbled to death by ducks.”  Something that happens slowly, inexorably, painfully. 

Bottom Line. In the end, the authors not surprisingly report that all of these microaggressions have a substantial negative impact on these physicians’ reported quality of professional life.

How could they not???