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Healthcare and Race - Is there a connection?

By: Lindsey Ward Email
By: Lindsey Ward Email

February 28, 2008

Many would agree health care is a necessity, but in 2008 does your race have an affect on the care provided?

Studies show there is a divide between the quality of care from race to race. It's a problem some in our area are working very hard to change.

Doctor Norman Oliver is a leader at the University of Virginia Medical Center in closing the disparity gap for African Americans and Latinos.

He teaches residents and reminds colleagues of the difference of care each races receives.

Oliver is quick to add this problem is not anything doctors are doing deliberately. It's often the cultural divide by the doctor and their patient.

“Physicians, myself included, operate on a day to day basis. We think in terms of patterns and if part of you unconscious thought is that this group of people presents a certain way then you can wind up acting on that on opposed to what's actually in front of you in terms of what this patient has,” said Oliver, UVa Associate Dean for Diversity and an Associate Professor of Family Medicine.

By that Oliver means people of different races do not act the same while in pain and that often causes the doctor to treat their ailments differently. He is calling for changes in the training medical students receive.

He says education on this topic needs to be structured into medical school, because it's a matter of life or death.

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