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Racial inequities for Black Americans in the healthcare system

UArizona College of Medicine is working to fix it
Photo of enslaved woman during medical experiment in 1840's
Posted at 10:42 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 22:10:09-05

TUCSON, Ariz.(KGUN) — The legacy of racism in healthcare for Black patients in America has always been a pressing issue that has a big impact on if or when someone goes in for critical care. Dr. Victoria Murrain is the Vice-Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the UArizona College of Medicine in Tucson. She says we all need to build an environment where true diversity can thrive.

She also says about 38% of students currently enrolled at the medical school are students of color. Scholarships and recruiting efforts are also the key to drawing them in. 150 high school students are brought to campus every year to streamline the process and build interest in the medical field.

"Studies confirm that patients cared for by someone who looks like them tend to be more compliant with the process of care. We also find that a more diverse group tend to be more creative in their solutions. The efforts need to begin earlier in the pipeline. We need to encourage our children to recognize that there is no obstacle too great to keep them from becoming who they want to be,” Murrain said.

The biggest issue is trust, a picture posted at the University of Arizona Medical School in Phoenix from the 1840’s shows doctors preparing to operate on an enslaved woman without her consent or anesthesia.

It's just one example in a list of tragic and horrific medical experiments performed on Black people that left families with trauma, a lack of confidence, and a lingering fear of the healthcare system and the Black community is not alone.

"The historical traumas certainly affect the Black population. It also affects other populations of color. Native American populations have had to deal with it Hispanic, Latin X populations have had to deal with this,” Murrain said.

Dr. Murrain says the U of A is working on new ways to bridge the gap. In 2020, efforts to recruit and retain students of color was spurred while the country was in the midst of unrest over racial equality and systemic racism. "White Coats for Black Lives" chapters were formed, and students of all races got involved.

“Based on all of the social unrest that was going on nationally, our students were very much the activist group and said we can’t continue to do things as usual,” Murrain said.

The university also has 10 anti-racism themes that students follow throughout their education. Transparency, engagement and accountability are just a few on the list. Dr. Murrain also has some advice if you’re worried about taking a trip to the doctor.

"Have your questions written out and take that person with you who can help you ask the questions that are important to you,” Murrain said.