Asian and Black Doctors Most Likely to Face Prejudice From Their Own Patients

Black and Asian healthcare professionals in the United States are more likely to face prejudice and hear offensive language from their own patients than their White counterparts, a recent study revealed.

Almost 1,200 doctors and other healthcare professionals and over 1,000 patients participated in the survey, “Patient Prejudice: When Credentials Aren’t Enough“.

Released on Wednesday, the findings from the survey of doctors, nurses, and physician assistants, conducted by WebMD and Medscape in collaboration with Stat, also found many female doctors on the receiving end of similar verbal abuse.

Based on the findings, 70% of African-American and 69% of Asian physicians reported hearing biased comments from the very people they treat. White doctors, on the other hand, say 55% of them also encounter prejudice.

Between genders, 65% of female doctors say they have heard biased remarks from their patients, making critical comments based on looks.

Over the last 5 years, the majority of the prejudiced comments directed at the doctors were based on visible features such as age, gender, ethnicity, race, and weight.

In an interview with WebMD, Stanford University professor of medicine Dr. Sachin Jain noted how such bias — racial or gender-based — may pose real consequences.

He explained that biased or offensive comments can have a negative influence on a doctor’s ability to provide care to their patient.

Screenshot via YouTube / NCQA – National Committee for Quality Assurance

“I think medicine is a profession that requires you to give your soul and develop a therapeutic bond with someone,” Dr. Jain was quoted as saying.

“If someone has a hateful perspective toward you, it naturally gets in the way of your ability to deliver that kind of care, because you’re not necessarily able to develop that therapeutic bond.”

Jain recalled a similar experience he had as a resident in Boston back in 2012 when a patient who couldn’t find his brand of insulin suddenly commented, “Why don’t you go back to India!”

After Jain “exited the room in a cold sweat,” he transferred the patient to be handled by another physician. He noted that even if such incidents happen rarely, such moments could leave a lasting painful memory.

“Over long careers, these types of episodes do happen. And they sit with doctors for a long time,” Jain added.

Back in August, an Asian American emergency room doctor from Oregon shared her personal experiences with her racist patients in a series of tweets.

In Dr. Esther Choo’s Twitter thread, which became widely shared on various social media platforms, she narrated how patients would refuse treatment from her based on her race.

When Choo gives them an option to choose between her or an intern, “they invariably pick the intern, as long as they are white. Or they leave.”

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