North Texas Daily

Sexism is still rampant in the medical industry

Sexism is still rampant in the medical industry

Sexism is still rampant in the medical industry
May 07
12:00 2021

Biases in the medical field are being talked about more frequently than ever now, although outstanding factors such as race and socioeconomic backgrounds are hardly ever included in the conversation. There is an issue when it comes to the healthcare needs of women, specifically Black women, and how they are treated by professionals.

This issue is more commonplace than we think. Inequalities in healthcare exist for Black women regardless of socioeconomic status, was a concept discovered by a study done in Critical Public Health. Complaints concerning pain are often dismissed and not taken seriously resulting in delays that could be life-threatening.

In an interview Serena Williams did with Vogue, she talked about how after an emergency C-section, she was experiencing shortness of breath, a symptom of a pulmonary embolism. Williams requested a CT scan as well as a blood thinner but the professionals around her brushed her off until eventually, blood started pooling around her and she was rushed into another emergency surgery.

Laura Knoy, host of The Exchange podcast, discussed these disparities with Dr. Colene Arnold and how women are treated when they are in a vulnerable position. On the subject of pain, Dr. Arnold said women are often not believed when expressing the level of their pain.

“If [a woman] is showing her pain, then the bias is that she’s emotional, she’s anxious, she’s over-exaggerating,” Dr. Arnold said. Her studies traced this belief back to ancient Greece where the uterus was believed to be the cause of hysteria. And since women were the only ones with a uterus – hysteria was considered a condition only a woman could have.

The healthcare environment does make it difficult for physicians to give undivided time and attention to patients because of how it is structured. In most cases, they will have only 15 or so minutes with a patient. Time-sensitive situations often lead physicians to rely on biases or preconceived notions as a shortcut.

It is important for physicians and medical staff to understand the social causes that lead to poor health and to not place the blame on the patient. While the United States may be one of the richest countries in the world, affordable healthcare and high-quality healthcare are still difficult to come by.

Increased representation and diversity within the healthcare field matters and having more African American and Latino medical professionals could be beneficial in establishing a better connection between physician and patient. Approximately 17 percent of the U.S. population is Latino however, only .4 percent of medical doctors are Latino, according to an infographic from EDUMED.

There are many benefits to increasing diversity and representation within the medical field. Physicians would be able to better communicate with and understand patients and the number of disparities or missteps would likely decrease.

Inequalities in healthcare and the medical field should be addressed on a federal level and people should be questioning the disparities in healthcare when it comes to women of color from various socioeconomic backgrounds. However, these issues should also be acknowledged internally within the medical field as well. It is important that doctors acknowledge the patient in front of them and not the biases or biological indicators which might lead them to misdiagnose or mistreat their patients.

These organizations should commit to increasing diversity within their institutions to bridge the gaps between various communities.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Meghana Vadlamani

Meghana Vadlamani

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