Diversity in Healthcare & Law Resources
Racism as a systemic issue within healthcare and our legal system is widely recognized as a problem that needs to be recognized, understood, and tackled. While often blatant, racism and oppression is often more subtle. Discrimination and systemic inequality is so pervasive that it is difficult to know how to begin to address the issues.
One thing we do know is important is the need for more diversity in healthcare and law fields. These professions need to be as diverse as our general population. What studies of workplaces and classrooms have shown us is that we work and learn better in diverse settings. It enriches all of us. It helps us to learn and think in new and better ways.
Below we have gathered some resources to help you begin learning more about some of these issues in healthcare and law. This is not an exhaustive list--just a starting point. Hopefully you will want to keep learning. These are important issues for applications and interviews. They are also aspects of cultural competency that will come up during your training as a professional.
We will keep adding to these resources. Feel free to send us items you find that you think we should share. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has gathered a number of articles on racism and health that range from educating doctors to treating patients.
Also check out this organization, the Institute for Anti-Racism in Medicine. It was started by doctors, who are also twin sisters. Great blog posts by the sisters.
Our healthcare system has pervasive inequalities deeply rooted in it. Health disparities are health differences that are closely linked with social (including race and ethnicity), economic, and environmental differences. Issues can include access to care in rural settings, institutionalized racism and inherit bias in treatment, economic equity issues in terms of access and insurance coverage, or environmental exposure to toxins or poor access to foods because of community structures. All of these are examples of disparities that can impact access to care, can lead to disproportionate disease loads on populations (both infectious disease and chronic disease), and alter how individuals and populations experience illness and care.
For future healthcare providers, health disparities are important to understand. Why?
- On the practical side, this will be part of your training and possibly your interview process, so if you start learning about this now you will be well-prepared.
- Health disparities are expensive to our healthcare system. When people don't have access to care or their care is delayed, they are generally sicker by the time they are receiving the necessary care. That care is more expensive. One disparity example is that Black patients are typically sicker by the time they are placed on the list for a kidney transplant and because of that will often die before they receive a new kidney.
- It is an important issue to take better care of ALL patients. Here's an example: A recent study of new medical students found that many of them held unscientific biases about people. One of those was that Black skin was somehow more tough and had fewer pain sensors. This is a commonly held misconception in medicine. It has led to many Black post-surgical patients--even children--being under-medicated for pain because doctors assumed that they were overreacting and they were not really in that much pain. All of this based on their own bias which is not scientifically grounded.
- It is an interesting and timely subject from medical, ethical, and legal perspectives. Another example, there are a number of examples of ambulance crews who have failed to treat Transgender individuals who have been in accidents or attacked until it was too late to save them. Why?
The following resources will help you explore this subject further:
Disparities in Health and Health Care This is a great general article explaining what health disparities are from the Kaiser Family Foundation which is a good source of health data in general.
The CDC offers a good general site with links to a number of sources.
The Office of Minority Health through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has useful information, policy updates, information on cultural competency, and you can sign up for a email updates to be sent directly to you.
Health Disparities Bibliography from the Office of Minority Health website provides a great background study on health disparities in the U.S.
National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities This NIH organization's website gathers information about their current research, resources for the public, reports from their past research, and much more if you keep clicking.
Advancing Health Equity programs based in research sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. It's also interesting to look at the National Academies for additional working groups if you have other interests in areas such as emerging diseases; emergency response; aging, disability, and independence, etc.
National Healthcare Quality & Disparities Report Chartbooks These chartbooks and other reports can help you see national data on improvements (or not in some cases) and state data for various health issues.
A number of law school deans have started a project of gathering antiracism resources as well as listening to the stories of others and learning from them.
Similar to the health disparity issue discussed above, a number of disparities exist in our society that impact how people live their lives. People often do not have equal access to jobs, housing, financial loans, adopting children, medical care, voting, a clean environment, animal rights, etc.
We have seen a number of these issues in the news in recent years. Fights over building oil pipelines through the Standing Rock Sioux's land; the poisoning of the water by lead in Flint, Michigan; the many recent deaths leading to the Black Lives Matter marches; the Me Too movement protesting sexual assault; racial disparities in the criminal justice system; fair pay; and most recently rationing medical care and the possible exclusion of disabled individuals.
Whether you choose to fight for these issues through the law, social advocacy, or as a voter, here are some places to stay informed on some of the issues.
The American Civil Liberties Union has a number of initiatives: Immigration; LGBTQ Rights; Reproductive Rights; Criminal Justice; Security & Privacy; Voting Rights; Capital Punishment; Disability Rights; Free Speech; HIV; Human Rights; Juvenile Justice; National Security; Prisoners' Rights; Racial Justice; Religious Liberty; Smart Justice; Women's Rights
The Southern Poverty Law Center has over 100 lawyers and focuses on Children's Rights; Economic Justice; Immigrant Justice; LGBTQ Rights; Voting Rights; and Criminal Justice Reform. They also track hate crimes and hate groups and have a Teaching Tolerance Program. One cool resource there is the printable posters--many are very inspirational.
The Human Rights Campaign is an advocacy organization for the LGBTQ community and provides support and federal advocacy on issues like Adoption; Hate Crimes; HIV/AIDS; International LGBTQ Rights; Workplace Rights; and Transgender Rights. They also maintain the State Equality Index, the Corporate Equality Index, and the Healthcare Equality Index.
Lambda Legal works toward the civil rights of the LGBTQ community. They specifically focus on Employment; Fair Courts; Family; Health Care; HIV; Immigration; Police & Criminal Justice; Racial Justice & Low Income Advocacy; and Religious Exemptions. Their resource page allows you to look up pertinent laws in individual states.
Disability Rights Advocates allows you to look up cases they are working on by state and by disability.
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is a legal and public policy advocacy organization. They work toward the equity and inclusion of the Disabled including issues such as Transportation, Assisted Suicide; Disability and Bioethics; Healthcare Access; and Special Education.
Professional & Practice-Level Diversity Organizations
- Optometry: National Optometric Association
- Medicine: National Medical Association
- Dentistry: National Dental Association
- Medicine: Human Rights Campaign Healthcare Equality Index
- Medicine: Society of Physicians with Disabilities
- Dentistry: American Association of Disabled Dentists
- Dentistry: Hispanic Dental Association
- Medicine: Association of American Indiana Physicians
- Medicine: Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum
- Medicine: National Hispanic Medical Association
- Lambda Legal
- American Association of Jewish Lawyers & Jurists
- National Native American Bar Association
Student Support Groups
Medicine: Student National Medical Association
Medicine: American Medical Student Association
Medicine: Student Osteopathic Medical Association
Medicine: Aspiring Docs
Dentistry: Student National Dental Association
Optometry: National Optometric Student Association
Christian Law Students Association part of Christian Legal Society
Jewish Law Students Association available at many law schools
People Who Make a Difference
As pre-professional advisors, we are lucky enough to meet students every day who are making a difference in the world. You amaze us and inspire us! Many of you have faced considerable roadblocks in your paths to success making your stories even more remarkable.
While the amazing people below have become relatively well-known (some very well-known), we also celebrate the people who make quiet contributions every day. Those nurses, lawyers, PTs, PAs, dentists, doctors, audiologists, and other professionals who are giving back to their communities and taking care of their families also inspire us.
Meet some of the people whose lives and stories we should all know more about. They have faced all the obstacles of attending professional school and moved forward to make remarkable contributions to their fields and society. Ignore the politics here--it doesn't matter if someone is a Republican or a Democrat--we can still celebrate their achievements.
Dr. Cameron Webb, Physician. This 36 year old physician recently won his Democratic primary nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia. If elected, he would be the first Black physician to serve in the U.S. House.
Dr. Mae Jemison, Engineer, Physician, Astronaut. She was the first Black woman in space when she was on the Endeavour mission in 1992. She appeared on Star Trek the Next Generation and has a Lego made of her. Look her up--she is very cool.
Dr. Ben Carson, Neurosurgeon, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Dr. Carson was a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon before he retired. He was the first to separate twins conjoined at the head.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Physician, Physical Therapist, Former Surgeon General of the United States. Dr. Elders was the Surgeon General in the midst of the AIDS epidemic and challenged notions of safe sex and shook people up just by talking about sex (and single sex, if you know what I mean).
Dr. Sharon Malotte, Physician. Dr. Malotte was the first indigenous Nevadan to go to medical school (at Stanford). She is from the TeMoak Band of the Western Shoshones of the South Fork Indian Reservation. She is an internist, emergency staff physician and medical director of a long term care facility.
Dr. Patrice Harris, Physician. Dr. Harris is a psychiatrist and the immediate past president of the American Medical Association and served as the first Black woman to hold the position. Dr. Harris has been the Chair of the the AMA's Opioid Task Force since its inception and has worked to eliminate barriers to treatment, provide patients with affordable non-opioid pain treatment, and to de-stigmatize substance use disorders.
VADM Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, Physician. Vice Admiral Dr. Adams is our current Surgeon General of the United States. He holds the rank of Vice Admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. In his role he oversees 6000 uniformed health officers who serve in nearly 800 locations around the world promoting and protecting the health and safety of the United States.
U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, JD. U.S. Representative Davids was elected in 2018 as one of the first Native American women elected to Congress (two were elected in 2018). A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation from Kansas, she has her law degree from Cornell.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, JD. Also elected in 2018 to the U.S. Congress as one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, Representative Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo and a 35th generation New Mexican. She earned her law degree from University of New Mexico School of Law.
Here are careers to watch: Harvard Medical School's student body president LaShyra (Lash) Nolen is an activist, medical student, and Harvard Med's first Black woman to serve as student body president. She is also a classmate of Purdue's William Mbongo who graduated from Purdue, completed a Fulbright for a year doing research at the Pasteur Institute in Paris before starting at Harvard Medical.
Please check back, we'll keep adding awesome people!
Want to know more?
Below are links to articles where you can continue to learn about issues and gain inspiration from work being accomplished in the field.
Black children are more likely to die after surgery than their white peers, study says. Adrianna Rodriguez. USA Today (online), July 20, 2020.
Disabled nurses find Covid-19 silver lining; Hope for more inclusive future. Allison Norlian. Forbes (online), July 29, 2020.
A medical student, Malone Mukwende, realized that too often skin conditions were described and pictured for white skin. He started collected images on darker skin tones--a much needed resource. He is hoping to publish a book. For now, you can follow on Instagram. A number of articles are available on Mr. Mukwende's work including this: Black medical student creates a handbook to show how symptoms of disease appear on darker skin after he was only taught how to diagnose conditions on white patients. Bridie Pearson-Jones. Daily Mail (online), July 7, 2020.
Enslaved people's health was ignored from the country's beginning, laying the groundwork for today's health disparities. Eric Kyere, Assistant Professor of Social Work at IUPUI. The Conversation (online). July 30, 2020.
History of Unequal Treatment. Slides from the Center for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Washington.