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Racial bias in medicine is a pervasive issue that affects people worldwide and has far-reaching consequences. It directly impacts the quality of healthcare that individuals receive and contributes to the worsening of their mental health. People of color are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of racial bias in healthcare, further alienating their experience in medical settings. It is essential to understand the detrimental effects of racial bias in medicine and the importance of understanding the issue to educate and promote harm reduction. Understanding the issue of racial bias in medicine is crucial for promoting harm reduction and advocating for change beyond healthcare settings as well.

Racial bias is one of the primary drivers of healthcare disparities, leading to unequal treatment and poorer health outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities. Studies have shown that healthcare providers may hold implicit biases that influence their clinical decision-making, leading to differential treatment and poorer health outcomes for certain groups. One study done by Dr. David Williams and Dr. Wyatt of the Institute of Medicine in 2013, documents the mistreatment patients receive based on their race, many of which are a result of implicit bias, a form of bias that is often gone unnoticed yet is the most stealthy form as it can seep into one’s judgments unknowingly. These biases can manifest in various forms, including assumptions about patients’ lifestyles, behaviors, and cultural practices, leading to underdiagnosis, under-treatment, and delayed care. Moreover, racial bias can also impact access to healthcare services, with racial and ethnic minorities more likely to face barriers to care, such as limited access to insurance, transportation, and quality healthcare providers. These barriers can exacerbate existing health disparities and contribute to poorer health outcomes for minority populations. 

The statement presents a clear perspective that societal racial bias has residual effects on individuals and communities in several ways. The argument is supported by a study conducted by Dr. Williams and Dr. Williams-Morris that examined how racism can affect mental health, with a focus on black individuals. The study drew three conclusions that align with the previous research, but it was not limited to healthcare settings. The study found that racism in certain institutions, including healthcare, limits socioeconomic mobility and results in unequal access to basic resources, ultimately impacting an individual’s mental well-being. Moreover, the study highlighted that racial bias and general racism can trigger physiological and psychological responses that negatively alter an individual’s mental health. The findings suggest that the endorsement of negative cultural stereotypes can lead to detrimental self-evaluations, which can cause a negative perception of one’s identity. These conclusions provide insight into how societal racial bias can have far-reaching effects on individual mental health and well-being. The paper suggests that addressing the issue of racism in institutions, including healthcare, is crucial in promoting mental well-being and reducing the negative impact of racial bias on individuals and communities. Further research in this area can provide a better understanding of the complex relationship between racism, mental health, and societal well-being.

During an interview for Stories to Save Lives, Treston Clark-Larue, a physician’s assistant, shared his personal experience working in healthcare. He recounted the ways in which social determinants can impact patient care, specifically highlighting the stigmas present in the clinic where he works. Larue specifically discussed his work in an HIV clinic and how patients’ social backgrounds, access to care and transportation, and other factors influenced their overall experience and level of care. Surveys were used to determine patients’ cultural and social standing, which highlighted the disparities among patients. Treston Clark-Larue’s experience highlights how social determinants of health, such as access to care, transportation, and cultural background, can impact patient care. Unfortunately, these factors can also lead to racial bias within healthcare, which can ultimately harm the patient’s mental and physical health. Studies have shown that physicians often hold unconscious biases towards patients from certain racial and ethnic groups, leading to disparities in treatment and outcomes. These biases can be influenced by a variety of social determinants, including cultural stereotypes, socio-economic status, and access to education and healthcare. When physicians are not aware of their biases, it can lead to inappropriate and inadequate care for patients, ultimately contributing to worsened mental states. Patients may feel discriminated against, which can lead to mistrust in the healthcare system and a reluctance to seek care in the future. It is essential for healthcare providers to be aware of social determinants of health and how they can impact patient care. By understanding and addressing these factors, healthcare providers can work towards reducing bias and ensuring that all patients receive high-quality care, regardless of their race or background.

One way to address the issue is through education and awareness-raising efforts; when medical professionals are trained to understand the complexity of healthcare and access to healthcare, their judgment is less likely to lapse the patient’s care and negatively impact their mental state. Medical professionals need to be trained to recognize and challenge their biases and to provide culturally responsive care that accounts for the diverse needs and experiences of patients. In conclusion, healthcare disparities and racial bias within healthcare settings have a significant impact on patient’s mental and physical health. The experience shared by Treston Clark-Larue highlights the importance of addressing social determinants of health and working to reduce bias in healthcare settings. Efforts are required to address these disparities and promote equity in healthcare, which can be achieved through continued research, education, and training for healthcare providers to understand better social determinants of health and the impact of unconscious biases.

Moreover, healthcare organizations and policymakers must prioritize addressing healthcare disparities through targeted interventions that address the root causes of these disparities. It is vital to recognize that this issue is complex and requires a multifaceted approach. By working together to address healthcare disparities and reduce racial bias in healthcare settings, a more equitable and just healthcare system can be created for all. Continued research in this area is crucial for understanding the scope of the problem and identifying effective solutions to address it. It is imperative that every patient receives the care they deserve, regardless of their race or background. 


Williams, David R., and Ronald Wyatt. “Racial bias in health care and health: challenges and opportunities.” Jama 314.6 (2015): 555-556.

Hall, William J., et al. “Implicit racial/ethnic bias among health care professionals and its influence on health care outcomes: a systematic review.” American Journal of Public Health 105.12 (2015): e60-e76.

Williams, David, and Ruth Williams-Morris. “Racism and mental health: The AfricanAmerican experience.” Ethnicity & Health 5.3-4 (2000): 243-268

Interview with Treston Clark-LaRue, 10 July 2019, Y-0092, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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