Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Opening a Dialogue on Bias in Medicine

Tehreem Rehman

In a little over a month, I will have completed my Masters in Public Health (MPH). Time truly flew by. I am grateful for meeting inspiring peers invested in addressing the top public health issues of our time and for getting first-hand exposure to policymaking at the state and national level. I am also appreciative of having the time and space to critically think about the pervasiveness of bias in medicine and how this, too, can be framed as a pressing public health issue.

systemicdisease_logo_v2_020916_Final 020916 (002)This past fall, a med school classmate and I launched Systemic Disease, an online platform seeking to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of bias in medicine and facilitate student advocacy efforts. As healthcare providers-in-training, we recognize that openly discussing bias is a crucial first step to counter it. Everyone holds implicit biases that can cause us to make automatic judgments without the intention to harm. Since such bias has been shown to adversely impact the patients we seek to serve, it is vital to begin identifying these biases within ourselves and others. Only then can we prevent such biases from interfering with our clinical decisions and behaviors with colleagues, students, and others.

As part of our mission to eradicate the systemic bias and injustice in medicine, we have set the following goals:

  1. Gather stories from people who interface with the medical field at all levels   to give voice to the biases they have experienced in the medical establishment.
  2. Create an online community to foster support and solidarity among site visitors and those who have experienced bias. .
  3. Use these stories to advocate for change such as improved counseling and support services for trainees experiencing bias, more robust or more transparent bias-reporting systems, and curricular reform to expand instruction on bias in medicine and health inequity.​

On Friday April 15, we will be conducting our first “storytelling as advocacy” event in New York City. We will be collaborating with the Muslim Writers Collective and other experienced storytellers in thinking deeply about effective storytelling as a means for a call to action in heath justice. You can find more information here.

In the meantime, please continue to share your stories and encourage your peers and colleagues to do so as well. Together, we can bring a much-needed conversation on bias in medicine beyond closed doors.

An article on unconscious bias from the AAMC: https://www.aamc.org/newsroom/reporter/january2016/453944/unconscious-bias.html

About Tehreem Rehman

tehreem smaller headshotTehreem Rehman is an M.D./M.P.H. candidate at Yale/Hopkins. As Co-Founder of Columbia University’s Public Service Initiative, she was selected to be a People for the American Way Foundation’s Young People For (YP4) Fellow for the 2012-13 academic year in order to expand the program. Previously, she served as the National Chair of the American Medical Student Association’s Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Health committee and as a National Editorial Advisor for the New Physician Magazine. Tehreem hopes to have a career in psychiatry with a focus on health justice work. You can follow her on twitter @tehreem_rehman and check out her blog at https://tehreemrehman.wordpress.com/.

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