Onsite’s Dr. Brittany Reid
As an African American female physician during a 2-year long pandemic, Black History Month is hitting me differently this year. I celebrate the accomplishments of the Black female physicians who came before me – Rebecca Lee Crumpler, Patricia Bath, Myra Adele Logan, Helen Octavia Dickens, Georgia Rooks Dwelle, Gertrude Hunter, and Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee, but I also reflect on the status of health inequity in this country. One of my best friends, also a Black female physician, recently shared with me a discussion with Dr. Camara Jones about the dismantling of racism in the health industry. This complex topic has no simple answer, but one thing struck me – her passionate call to act and her rally to help make positive change.
Her words made me stop and think about what I had done and what more can I do. My self-reflection led me to read more about the importance of representation in medicine.
Here are some facts:
- African Americans make up approximately 5% of the physician workforce, with about 2% being African American females.
- Research has shown that increased diversity in medicine leads to more equitable care.
- Many books used in medical training do not discuss or show the nuisances of health conditions in African Americans or other minorities, such as how skin conditions may look different on darker skin.
- Diversity in medicine can enhance empathy, improve decision-making quality, strengthen patient-doctor communication, and foster a higher sense of reward in medical providers.
These facts demonstrate the impact that diversity and representation in medicine can make. Not just representation in the physician workforce but also in the information taught to those in training. We live in a country with a population that differs in so many ways. By increasing representation in medicine and medical education, we can improve our understanding of cultural and racial perspectives, provide better care to currently underrepresented and underserved groups of people, and foster better physician-patient relationships. However, equity must be available in our health and educational infrastructure. In other words, more resources need to be given to certain people for them to have access to the same opportunities as another person. So, what can we do?
One answer – keep advocating. We all need to do our part to promote diversity in medicine, support more minority representation in healthcare, and increase understanding of all cultural backgrounds. This requires a collaborative effort from all healthcare providers so everyone can grow, learn, and improve as a society. Our contributions will vary and may happen on a smaller level, but a larger change is possible if enough minor changes occur. I’m not naïve to think that all inequities will disappear, but I am empowered to believe that together we can reduce their presence and lessen their impact.
I am proud to be working at Onsite, a company that recognizes the importance of health equity in providing better healthcare for our patients and families. I look forward to what the future holds and will contribute to health equity and diversification in medicine. James Baldwin said it well, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Happy Black History Month: May we acknowledge our past, learn from our mistakes, educate ourselves, and use our collective knowledge to build a better future where we all have access to thrive.