The Importance of Better Representation in the Medical Industry

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by Tito Oye |

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Sickle cell disease is a condition that mostly affects people from an African or African-Caribbean origin. Nevertheless, the majority of those who have treated me for this condition have been healthcare professionals of other races. I don’t think they would have typically interacted with sickle cell patients prior to studying in their field.

I can count the number of black doctors who have consulted me on one hand, and none of them were specifically hematologists. According to Harvard Business Review, “African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, but only 4% of U.S. doctors and less than 7% of U.S. medical students.” I believe it is essential that we have more black doctors in every medical field, including hematology.

I know that patients — myself included — feel more at ease if they are seen by a doctor who is similar to them in terms of appearance, culture, and language. Research has shown that patients are more comfortable around doctors they can relate to and are more likely to seek out their services. Black people also are more likely to talk about their health more openly and thoroughly with a black doctor. Consequently, their level of care tends to be more accurate and effective.

In an ideal world, race would not be a hindrance to the quality of care given or received, but studies have shown that people are more accurately diagnosed and treated for conditions by healthcare professionals who are from a similar background.

For these reasons, healthcare facilities should make plans to ensure that their staff accurately represent the population in the communities they serve. This is easier said than done, but the first step to change is raising awareness and starting the conversation.

I want to encourage all those from black minority ethnic backgrounds currently working in the medical industry, and those studying to become a part of the industry, to continue their work. Please remember that you are needed.

I know it’s not easy, but what you do is important and makes a difference in the lives of those you care for. So keep going!


Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.


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