unconscious bias

reflections of a victim of unconscious bias

A few weeks ago, a primary care physician colleague (white man)—who I’ve known for over a decade—sent me the note below by way of our mutual patient’s caregiver (white man) open, not in a secured envelope.  In the past nearly 4 years the patient has been under my care, the colleague has not once reached out to me by email, phone, text, tweet, telegraph, or carrier pigeon regarding our patient.


He did, however, reach out to my boss (white man) and a hospital executive (white man) a few months ago when the caregiver (reminder, white man) first complained no one in the dialysis unit was listening to him (though the caregiver has never spoken to me directly about his concerns because, I just learned, he found me “intimidating”).

irrelevant words matter

It was Friday afternoon and the last patient of the clinic day had arrived. A new patient to me. While the medical assistant asked her screening questions (Do you smoke cigarettes? Do you have pain? Have you fallen recently?) and checked his vitals (blood pressure, heart rate, weight), I started to get to know him through his medical record. I began with the clinic referral to find out why he was in my clinic in the first place. Would I be figuring out why he had an electrolyte problem (like low potassium levels) or thousands of grams of protein in his urine (when normal is less than 30 milligrams)? Or would I find the usual, a case of irreversible kidney damage caused by high blood pressure and/or diabetes? The first line read: 70 year-old formerly incarcerated man with recent hospital admission for…