By Mai Hoang, MD, FACOG
I honor Black health and wellness in my daily counseling of patients. I have to admit, the first time that I brought racism into a conversation with a patient, I wasn’t sure how my patient will respond. With time, it became easier and more natural. I remembered one night on labor and delivery while counseling a Black couple about preterm labor, I told her that unfortunately Black women have a higher risk for preterm birth. In front of my family medicine resident, who just started her obstetric rotation, the patient point blank asked me why that is. We had never met, as she had received prenatal care elsewhere, and from our interactions thus far I gathered that there was some mistrust in the medical system. In my most serious and sincere tone, I answered that we don’t know the exact cause, but that structural and systemic racism along with implicit and explicit bias from health care professionals and patients all have a role in this. She didn’t say anything, but I knew a bridge was built and part of her mistrust was lessened.
Another way that I honor Black and brown people’s health is by helping medical students and residents consider cultural and socioeconomic barriers when treating patients. We can’t ask a pregnant patient who works two jobs and has unreliable transportation to do antenatal testing twice a week and blood test midday. Patients want to get better and do the best thing for their health. We must help them! To start, we have to understand their situation. Then, we work to eliminate the racist obstacles.