Two family physicians reflect on white privilege in health care and the need for action

"Our medical system is structured to individually and systemically favor white physicians and patients in ways that white people are trained to ignore," states family medicine resident Max Romano, MD, MPH. Reflecting on his medical training, Romano describes how he, a white physician, has benefited from the racial privileges he has been afforded. Among the privileges he identifies are the pervasive belief that people of his race can become doctors; the ease with which he found professors and academic role models of his race during college and medical school; and patients' assumptions that, when he enters an examination room with a person of color, he is the physician in charge, even if that is not the case. He calls on other white physicians to speak out against the racism from which they have benefited and to work towards racial justice for clinicians and patients in the medical system.

White Privilege in a White Coat: How Racism Shaped My Medical Education

Max J. Romano, MD, MPH
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center Family Medicine Residency, Baltimore, Maryland

In a related editorial, Joseph Hobbs, MD, chair of family medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, cautions against allowing concepts such as white privilege, unconscious and implicit bias, and institutional racism to provide a means for avoiding personal responsibility for racism. In the health care setting, recognition of white privilege is a first step, he states, and should be accompanied by individual and institutional efforts to eliminate privilege and disparities in quality of care based on race. He calls on health care professionals to be aware and take action: "To experience implicit or unconscious bias in the professional and personal settings of health care and fail to address it is a missed opportunity to facilitate change."

White Privilege in Health Care: Following Recognition With Action
Joseph Hobbs, MD
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia


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