National Headlines

AAMC | Unconscious Bias in Academic Medicine: Overcoming the Prejudices We Don’t Know We Have

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 by Eve Glicksman

In the 19th century, it was widely believed that black slaves had a high pain tolerance and didn’t require medication for relief. Today we know better. Yet a study of almost one million youths over seven years, published last year in JAMA Pediatrics, corroborates other accumulating research that physicians undertreat African-Americans for pain relative to white patients based on best practices. The difference? The physicians in this study did not make treatment recommendations according to skin color. This is what unconscious bias looks like.

“Most unconscious bias is caused by well-intended people with blind spots,” said Howard Ross, author of Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments. Ross, chief learning officer of Cook Ross, Inc., has been partnering with the AAMC to present workshops on unconscious bias for health professionals. Also known as implicit bias, these attitudes outside our awareness extend beyond race and ethnicity. People can have unconscious bias about sexual orientation, gender, weight, age, social class, or even height.



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