By SANDRA TEMKO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — For years, studies have shown that people of color don’t get the same level of health care as white patients.
Some of these studies include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 study which found that Black babies have a higher chance of dying in their first year of life compared to white babies.
Similarly, a study from the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine found that Black and brown Americans waited longer for care in the emergency room than white Americans.
And in 2016, another study from the National Academy of Sciences found that Black Americans were undertreated for pain compared to white Americans.
It’s an issue that Kamilah Mitchell knows all too well. In 2017, Mitchell said she was in the emergency room for eight hours and was even given a breathalyzer test before getting treatment for uterine cancer.
“How do you trust a system that is ready to send you home?” Mitchell told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “Because for whatever reason, they don’t want to hear you.”
Now, Mitchell is working as a consultant with Dr. Joy Cooper, an Oakland, California, doctor and co-founder of Culture Care, a group that connects Black women with trusted physicians.
“I always tell people that the health care system was not designed [with] Black women in mind,” Dr. Joy Cooper told Good Morning America. “J. Marion Sims, who’s considered the father of gynecology, actually performed surgeries on slaves with their master’s consent without anesthesia.”
But an initiative at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital is working to end racial bias in medicine.
Dubbed the Racial Bias Initiative, which is part of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, their mission is to provide “health care and education that is free of racism and bias.”
According to Dean David Muller of the Icahn School of Medicine, the initiative, which was launched in 2015, aims to focus on changing “how we function, how we recruit scientists and doctors, how we promote them and how we make decisions about resource allocation.”
“It’s the people and it’s the actual structure of the medical school,” added Dr. Leona Hess, director of strategy and equity education programs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “What are the ways in which we set up conditions that either knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate racism?”
At the Icahn School of Medicine, they also host weekly discussions about racial bias in medicine called “Chats for Change,” where the Mount Sinai community can learn about a wide range of topics from racial trauma to racial injustice in medicine. Attendees can also take part in healing circles.
“There’s a lot of work going on now that I think is super important around racism in medicine,” said Jennifer Diaz, a second year medicine student. “And what are the new interventions that we can come up with?”
And while discussions about racial inequalities can be uncomfortable, Mount Sinai is determined to continue shining a light on the issue of racial bias in medicine in the hopes that it will be eliminated for good in the near future.
“We really need to dig deep and undo generations of structural racism in our profession,” said Dr. Joe Truglio of Mount Sinai.
“We can’t afford to not address it head on,” said Dr. Gary Butts, the chief diversity and inclusion officer of Mount SInai Health System.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.