Jade Anderson, MD, American Medical Association Section Council on Radiology Member Representative to the Radiology Health Equity Coalition, contributed this piece.
In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Today, we honor the contributions of Black and African Americans across various facets of society, including business, law, government, arts, sciences — along with radiology — and more. As February comes to a close, I feel compelled to continue the conversation on health equity well beyond Black History Month.
I am saddened to see the degree of distrust that the Black community has in the medical system that we serve, but I also understand. Together we must first take a step back and face our history and its challenges head-on. Black/African Americans have been continuously subjected to delayed diagnoses, subpar care and pervasive health disparities, in part due to intrinsic and blatant biases passed from generation to generation. Take the Tuskegee experiment, for example. Hundreds of Black men were lied to about receiving a treatment when doctors were actually just observing how an infectious disease progressed, resulting in the death of more than 100 men. What about Henrietta Lacks? Her cells were taken without her consent or compensation, and the impact that she’s had on the medical community and research is insurmountable.
As a Black radiology resident, this engrained, distrustful culture is something I hope to change, patient by patient. I would like to see a healthcare system where everyone — no matter their race, creed, color or insurance status — is acknowledged. We are not the same, but our differences should be recognized and honored, rather than weaponized against us. I would like to see a healthcare system where inclusivity is commonplace, where Black patients have the benefit of the doubt without being labeled, and a verity that the Black community could trust.
Radiology is a mere piece of the larger healthcare system, but our presence makes a huge impression on several factors that impact patients, such as representation of providers and access to equitable care. This is why the Radiology Health Equity Coalition is so important. Since medical imaging touches every facet of patient care, it is vital that we address and rectify the issues surrounding barriers to radiologic care for patients. There are many ways that radiologists can help advance health equity. One goal of the coalition is to empower and provide a framework for radiologists and radiology practices to drive initiatives on certain research projects — specifically those within the medically undersourced, underprivileged regions. Another is to help implement strategies that can impact their community. For example, this could be accomplished by partnering with local community health organizations. However, the ultimate goal is for the field of radiology to help narrow the health disparities gap. I believe this is the easiest step — to recognize that there is inequality and to make a conscious effort to improve it.
Please visit radhealthequity.org and engage with #RadHealthEquity on social media to learn more about how you can advance equity in radiology.Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).