Southern Vermont doctor says structural discrimination impacting minorities’ health

Southern Vermont Medical Center’s internal medicine physician and a family nurse practitioner joined “Medical Matters Weekly” with Dr. Trey Dobson on Wednesday to talk about their roles in diversity and inclusion programs.

“Our goal at SVMC and our Diversity and Inclusion Committee is to try to provide education, training, resources to everyone in our community so that we can make a better experience for all individuals who need our help,” Dr. Lisa Downing-Forget said on the show.

CAT-TV Bennington

Dr. Lisa Downing-Forget, a physician at SVMC Internal Medicine

According to Downing-Forget, it’s important to learn that some amount of bias likely exists in workers in the medical field.

“We may not even realize that we are treating someone differently based on how they look or how they approach us, and I think it’s really important for all of us to understand that all of us have some implicit biases,” she said.

“I think most people in the community at large, and most healthcare providers, assume that for some reason through our training, or just because of our goals, we are less implicitly bias than the rest of the country — and that’s just not true. As healthcare providers, as doctors, nurses, other individuals, we have the same levels of implicit bias that everyone else does.”

Downing-Forget said that these biases are having an impact on Vermonters’ health.

“Research has shown things like implicit bias, things like structural discrimination and processes actually impact people’s health,” she said. “Some that is conscious, and some of that is unconscious.

She added that these can have an impact on shorter life expectancy, higher maternal and fetal death rates, inaccurate diagnoses, poorer treatment options, and less success in treatment options.

Part of the solution, she says, is equality for all patients.

“We will know when we get to the point when we have reached equality when the research shows that everyone gets the same treatment, everyone has the best possible outcomes — and that’s what we are striving for,” Downing-Forget said.

Filson also spoke on the issue, and said her prior experience working with uninsured populations helped form her views.

“My initial introduction into health care was really working with folks who have experienced marginalization for most, if not all, of their lives. So for me, starting out, exclusion from the dominant culture was the norm,” Filson said.

Filson said patients may sometimes forego services because they are afraid.

“I’ve also seen patients who are nervous about being forthcoming because of their identity, because they fear retribution, marginalization or discrimination,” she said.

The full video can be viewed online.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of CAT-TV Bennington

6 thoughts on “Southern Vermont doctor says structural discrimination impacting minorities’ health

  1. “The belief that disparities in incomes are indicators of disparities in the treatment of those with lower incomes is part of a more general set of assumptions that some one particular factor is the key or dominant factor behind the differences in outcomes. In the early twentieth century, the key factor behind economic, intellectual and other disparities among different groups was assumed to be genetics. That view was as dominant then as the opposite view today that disparities in outcomes imply discrimination. American colleges and universities had hundreds of courses on eugenics then, just as many academic institutions have courses — and whole departments — teaching that outcome disparities imply discrimination.
    Nor was genetic determinism peculiar to the United States or confined to any particular part of the political or ideological spectrum, though American Progressives took the lead in promoting genetic determinism in the United States then, as they later took the lead in promoting the opposite presumption that disparities imply discrimination in the second half of the twentieth century. On both sides of the Atlantic, and in both eras, leading intellectual and political figures were in the forefront of those promoting the prevailing presumption of their times.”
    (Thomas Sowell, Discrimination and Disparities, p. 25.)

  2. There is no evidence for anything these claims – all that is presented is subjective and anecdotal. Also seems to possess low level of emotional maturity. This so-called health care “professional” is a dangerous threat to the mental health andwell-being of patients and a disgrace to the medical profession – and I hope she is fired. Professionals typically do not become politically involved in matters of health care – looks like we have another BLM-CRT advocate to ruin the lives of fellow Vermonters.

  3. The bantering of buzz words and innuendo does nothing to bring about positive change- If change is even required. As words like “equity” and “systemic racism” get tossed about, it might be good to remember that “systemic racism” requires systems. White liberals have controlled the systems in Vermont for a generation.

  4. I’ll make sure I never, ever go to SVMC for anything. If this is the caliber of their staff, one would never recover.

  5. Comrade Forget,

    So people need to learn, “some amount of bias likely exists” that is a theory not a fact. The fact that some amount of bias does exist is quite evident by your own words.

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