Hosts of the internal medicine podcast The Curbsiders, sat down with CHEST 2019 keynote speaker Quinn Capers, IV, MD, to discuss implicit bias in medicine during a live taping of the show Sunday afternoon.
Dr. Capers, an advocate for diversity in medicine and reducing racial disparities, is known for helping The Ohio State University’s College of Medicine become one of the most diverse medical schools in the nation. With Dr. Capers’ leadership as vice dean of faculty affairs, the female students have outnumbered the males for the past 6 years, and minority representation is at 26% compared to the national average of 13%.
The Curbsiders’ Q&A began with some getting-to-know you questions for Dr. Capers, who said he’s a regular guy who loves the following things in descending order: God, family, being a doctor, jazz music, hip hop, and seafood.
He’s also proud of a hashtag he started to challenge stereotypes about black men. With #BlackMenInMedicine, Dr. Capers invites people to post photos of black men working in medicine.
“The number of black men applying to medical school is at an all-time low,” he said. “We want to encourage black men to apply to medical school. We also want to change the implicit bias about black men. So just maybe, when we see black men, instead of thinking crime, we think physician.”
During the hour-long discussion, the hosts used a series of hypothetical cases to ask Dr. Capers questions about implicit bias and how to combat it.
One case, for example, involved the use of opioids for pain and how implicit bias can color a physician’s decisions about who needs opioids and who doesn’t. He shared data from a study that showed when there is a visible source of pain—say a broken bone or a kidney stone—there’s no disparity in who receives narcotics. However, when there’s no clear source of the reported pain, white patients are more likely to be believed and receive narcotics, whereas black and Hispanic patients are more likely to be thought of as “drug-seeking” and be prescribed NSAIDs.
“It’s harmful to paint all patients with the same brush,” Dr. Capers said. “Every patient deserves a clean slate. Look at every patient. Slow down. Shine a spotlight on our biases.”
He said it’s important for clinicians to be aware that people are most vulnerable to their implicit biases when they’re multi-tasking—something clinicians do a lot.
“When we’re busy. When we’re tired. Those are the times it’s easy to fall back on automatic reflexes, and that’s when our unconscious biases can kick in,” Dr. Capers said.
Follow The Curbsiders on Twitter @thecurbsiders and tweet using #CHEST2019 #Curb19.