How the story of Remus Robinson relates to current racial disparities in healthcare
Dr. Herbert Smitherman, general internist at the Detroit Medical Center and vice dean of Diversity and Community Affairs at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been a practicing physician in Detroit for 33 years. Smitherman said he has met with several Black patients who don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccine or the health care system itself. He believes that can change if there are more Black doctors. “The race of the provider and having people that look like you, understand you, understand your concerns and your culture are very important to helping you receive needed care,” Smitherman said. A 2018 study done in Oakland, California, found that increasing the number of Black doctors could reduce the Black-white male gap in cardiovascular mortality by 19 percent. A 2016 study found that Black men and women in the U.S. have a life expectancy that was, respectively, 4.4 and 2.8 years shorter than white men and women. But Smitherman cautions that efforts to increase the number of Black doctors cannot be the only solution. “The mistrust was not created by Black physicians. It was structural racism and systemic racism within a health care system that created that mistrust, not Black physicians, but by non-Black physicians,” he said. Smitherman pointed out that issues such as where the vaccine is distributed, the times of day it’s offered, and the method for scheduling a vaccine appointment are all potential complications for the average Detroiter. He said figuring out solutions is all about having a diverse group of decision-makers at the table. “If you aren't having people of color represented in your real strategy setting and planning for vaccine distribution, we're not going to get where we need to get,” he said.
February 19, 2021