Is there a racial ‘care gap’ in medical treatment?
PBS News Hour
A new survey has found implicit biases in medical students that may explain why black patients are sometimes undertreated for pain, with some students believing that black people feel less pain and have thicker skin than white people. For more on the perplexing discovery, Gwen Ifill talks to Dr. David Satin of the University of Minnesota and Dorothy Roberts of the University of Pennsylvania.
GWEN IFILL: A new study finds African-American patients are often treated differently when it comes to medicine and care. The survey of more than 500 people, 400 of them medical students, found implicit bias exists that may help explain why black people are sometimes undertreated for pain.
Among its findings: Medical students believed that African-Americans felt less pain than white patients, and even thought their skin was thicker.
For more on this perplexing discovery, we turn to Dr. David Satin of the University of Minnesota Medical Center, and Dorothy Roberts of the university of Pennsylvania.
Thank you both for joining us.
Dr. Satin, try to describe this disparity for me. Why does this exist? And is it new?
DR. DAVID SATIN, University of Minnesota Medical Center: So, Gwen, we have known that this has been an issue for at least a couple decades.
And every now and then, a study comes out that underscores the need for the field of medicine, and in particular medical education, to do some work and get it right.
So, this is a problem, and it’s been a problem, and hopefully this study will spur on more activity.
GWEN IFILL: Dorothy Roberts, is this a medical problem or a sociological problem?
DOROTHY ROBERTS, University of Pennsylvania: It’s both.
I think what’s really important and fascinating about the study is that it, for the first time, links what we have long known as undertreatment of pain for black patients with doctors, or at least medical students’ false beliefs about biological differences based on race.
And those beliefs, as the study has shown, are widely held by laypeople as well. They’re deeply embedded, longstanding myths about racial difference, especially biological differences between races, which goes back to the very concept that race is a biological difference that is widespread in U.S. society. So it’s sociological, as well as medical…
Read the entire transcript here. Watch the interview here.