Health Inequity Because of My Race?

Dr. Kevins JenkinsHave you ever felt like your race effected the type of treatment you received from your health care provider? On October 18th, 2016, Nazareth College welcomed guest speaker Dr. Kevin Ahmaad Jenkins to discuss his project “Hue Process: The Quantitative Measurement of Racism in Medicine”. His work explores race as a social problem, discrimination, and the consequences of racism on health and health care.

Two-time national journalism award winner, author and motivational speaker, Dr. Jenkins currently serves as Vice Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He invests a lot into researching the correlation of health disparities and the impact of race and law within medical practices through the Critical Race Theory.

Many people shy away from talking about racism but, Dr. Jenkins has fully devoted himself to evoking these conversations that decode how we deal with the social construction of race. Dr. Jenkins was very personable with the audience as he diverged into #Race Talk as he called it. He warned the crowd in the beginning that we might not like everything that he says but he must “keep it real”.

The talk took off pretty quickly as Dr. Jenkins illustrated how often times medicine assumes race as an identifier and each time fails to address whats driving these issues. In the medical world  we are faced with a systemic problem of inequity when it comes to health care. Arguable, many professionals publish work that cannot correctly approach research on health disparities because “we don’t talk enough about problems with race and ethnicity to formulate the right questions”. This is where assumptions come in.

How do we go about  interpreting the ideas of race and racism? What are the dimensions of race that actually mean something?  Does race even matter?

Jenkins made it clear that the idea of health inequity is much larger than what we would like to understand. His project is centered around introducing frame-work of “positing a theoretical strategy for conceptual and statistical measurement” of race, racism and power of interactions between health care provider and patient. The ultimate goal for Dr. Jenkins is for us to take strides towards retooling statistical measures within medicine.

I believe that Dr.Jenkins did a phenomenal job with gathering this information he presented to express a critical issue that, ironically, impacts many  but doesn’t get much attention. I personally haven’t been victim of mistreatment from a health care provider; to my knowledge I must add. You see, Dr. Jenkins expressed the concept of Power of doctor to patient. A care provider doesn’t have to explicitly mistreat you; they can simply utilize their power to not give you the correct treatment that your need. Doctors are trusted beings who, in a very extreme context, have our lives in the palm of their hands. I can only imagine how many people are unknowingly deprived of proper treatment based off of their race or ethnicity.

After hearing Dr. Jenkins speak, I began to ponder more on the influential extent that race plays in our society and our lives overall. Dr. Jenkins is currently working on two other book projects along with Hue Process: The Quantitative Measurement of Racism in Medicine which are, Refund My Freedom: How the Law Created Health Inequity in the Black Community, and Branding Jezebel: Black Women, Law, and Medicine in Antebellum America. I encourage all to stay for what he has in store!

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