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.
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.