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How the next generation is battling medical bias

Posted at 11:06 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 23:10:53-04

FORT MYERS, FLA — A hospital or doctor's office is probably the last place you want to end up. But if you do need medical care for one reason or another, chances are you likely trust your doctor to give you the best care.

But unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Students in the Physician Assistant Program at Florida Gulf Coast University say sometimes speed is the reason for a lapse in care.

"Sometimes you're caught up in the hustle and bustle," said Sabreen Yousef.

But they add that oftentimes, it's something more systemic.

"I actually have some close friends of mine that have had not the same access to quality care that they could have had in the medical field," said Yousef.

Studies that have been done over the last ten years back that up. They show that things like race and ethnicity or even disabilities can sometimes mean a lower standard of care.

One of them even found that dozens of medical students believed that black patients had a higher tolerance for pain and therefore needed less pain medication.

The students we spoke to say one of the first ways to stop this trend is advocacy.

"I think with any patient but especially with people of color, you have to be an advocate for yourself because even if people aren't believing what you're saying you need to push for that because they're not in your body so they're not experiencing what you're experiencing," said Agnes Fuerst.

But beyond that, they add that it takes work on the part of providers.

"I want to make sure that everyone is heard equally and judge my own internal biases daily," said Yousef.

They tell FOX 4 that providers can fight biases, by being open to different experiences in and out of the workplace.

"You're going to have a patient who doesn't look like you or even have the same experience or resources as you and if you can't take yourself out of this component, you're never going to be able to fully reach them and make sure they're getting the best quality care," said Fuerst.

"Even when it comes to something as simple as social media, I try to make sure I follow deaf content creators, people of color, and then I listen to their experiences and I take that with me," said Yousef.

It's work that the Director of the program, Robert Hawkes, says they're constantly doing and his hope is that it prepares them to provide quality care in the future.

"We'll come up with different scenarios and the students will work through them and they'll talk through them. Some of them may be difficult conversations because they're scenarios or situations they've never been placed in. But it's something that is really important because this is a safe spot that they can do it [in] versus actually seeing a patient in a real situation," he said.