Fortitude: A Study of African Americans in Surgery in New York City

Fortitude: A Study of African Americans in Surgery in New York City

Robert S. Kurtz (SUNY Downstate Medical Center, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0174-9.ch009
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In New York City, from the 1990s to the present, covert racism is alive and well in the field of medicine and medical education. This racism largely manifested itself as inequitable treatment of illness. The most heavily impacted are African American and Caribbean American females and males. These inequities engendered results such as unwarranted criticism in residency education, forced changes of medical occupations and jobs, and false attributions of behavioral health issues. Combating these challenges requires fortified character armor, seeking percipient well positioned minorities, white and off-whites allies, and a willingness to maintain continued vigilance. With persistence and tenacity, success is possible in terms of protecting minorities both in the educational process, and subsequent medical career.
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Medicine like any other social institution is always in large part a manifestation of the culture in which it exists and traditionally racism and sexism have regrettably been endemic to the society in the United States (Loewy, 2008). When examining the complex issues of women of color in medicine, the depth and breadth of the research cut across a number of intersections and weave in and out of continuums from medical education to residency and beyond. The examination begins with a look at the perception of female medical students of color and their perceived gains in gender and racial equality (Heever & Frantz, 2011).

Gender bias has been ingrained in healthcare education, research and clinical training. In 2002, the World Health Organization implemented a gender policy committing itself to advancing gender impartiality and equity in health and to set right health inequities that are a consequence of gender roles and unequal gender-relations in society. Building on earlier international research, the goal of the study was to play a part in the understanding of women’s encounters with gender discrimination and inequality while partaking as learners in health education. The research question was whether the medical educational structures could be enabling the inequalities or contributing to the re-establishment of the discrepancies known to be real.

The WHO study included all fourth-year female medical students at a university located in South Africa. Of the overall number of questionnaires disseminated, 48/72 fourth-year female medical students responded, generating a response rate of 68%. Of the respondents, 32% reported having the experience that they were not taken seriously by patients because they were women. In addition, 24% state that they were not taken seriously by their male peers. The findings point toward the inevitable need for supplementary support for women in medicine as well as addressing the gender role supposition apparent in the educational experience through curriculum development.

What does this mean as the field considers the impact on the changing dynamic and composition of medical schools in the western world (Grbic & Brewer, 2012)?

Analysis In Brief (AIB) looks at: (1) the latest patterns in number and proportion of female applicants to medical school by first-time, repeat, and total applicants; (2) the patterns in medical school matriculation; and (3) whether the undergraduate conduit is in some countries, though not all, the reason for stasis in the percentage of female applicants. In certain 3rd world countries the gender obstacles in undergraduate education, especially lack of mentors, role models and support subverts the equalization of gender distribution in medical school.

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