Tackling racism in the medical field

Sophie Wilson dissects the truth behind medical racism

Sophie Wilson
19th November 2020
Racism in the medical field should not be happening in 2020, and yet it appears that it is. 

Last year, I read a book for my English course titled The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In this, I learnt that Henrietta (a Black woman) had cells taken from her in order for them to be experimented on. She was not told about this, and she did not give consent for this to happen. Years later, her family have not received the material benefits that their ancestor’s cells have given many scientists, and it is thought that it is because they were a black family who lived in relative poverty. And so, is this racism within the medical field still as prevalent today?

With the Black Lives Matter movement so prominent in our society, and with awful events like the death of George Floyd occurring around us, it is important that all aspects of life have racism removed from them. 

Black trainee Clinical Skills Assessment passes are at 77%, whereas white trainees are at 95%

In a post written for Pulse Today by Dr Adwoa Danso, a locum GP in Essex and East London as well as a resident doctor, she said that black doctors are more likely to face disciplinary tribunals than white colleagues. Also, UK educated Black trainee Clinical Skills Assessment passes are at 77%, whereas white trainees are at 95%. Within the NHS, these figures show that throughout both the training process and the delivery of medical help, racism is apparent. 

Black Africans are most at risk of catching COVID-19 and suffering extreme effects that endanger their health and their life

Image credit: Obi Onyeador on Pixabay

So, what can we do to start changing the situation? Dr Danso says that in relation to Covid today, black Africans are most at risk of catching the disease and suffering extreme effects that endanger their health and their life. Her response is that we need to stop grouping together non-white people as “BAME”.  She says that the “disparity between ethnic groups is proven but rarely highlighted” and genetics really do vary “widely within the BAME group and even more so among black people. Grouping numerous ethnicities into one group can be detrimental.” 

To look to a future where racism is removed from the medical field, I believe that education is key. If we take the solution presented by Danso, seeing non-white people within the field of medicine as individuals with their own genetics, just as we do with white people, then maybe the way that black people are treated, both medically and socially within the medical field, can be changed.

Universities are where many minds are carved and expanded, allowing students to raise their awareness of world issues and develop their own stance on pressing topics. Racism is something that should be on this list.

In the STEM subjects, we need to look at scientists, mathematicians and engineers from various walks of life and countries, showing that identity is not carved from being white or non-white

If we take texts in English Lit that concern themselves with members of various non-white communities from around the world, ones who have been marginalised from our Western consciousness, and resist the dominant discourse of homogenising them into one identity, then we begin to expand our vision of identities that are different to our own. If, in the history department we look at how the term “BAME” developed and why it is not a good term to use, we can use it to carve the future where a better outlook is taken.

In the STEM subjects, we need to look at scientists, mathematicians and engineers from various walks of life and from various countries, showing that identity is not carved from being white or non-white. 

Universities have the power to educate the minds of students, and if we use this power as a tool for progressive social change, then I feel that racism within all walks of life can be cut out, especially in the medical field.

Featured Image: Clay Banks on Unsplash

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