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Published: June 29, 2020

Show and Tell / June 2020 By Liz McCraven, M.D.

The latest events of this horrible year have not surprisingly turned my mind to systemic racism and public health. Addressing racism and implicit bias in health care is a perfect topic for this month. These are among the social determinants of health thought to account for up to 55 percent of health outcomes.

I was profoundly affected by this video which was posted by my friend and colleague who is a family doc in Colorado. PJ Parmar was a resident with me in Colorado about 10 years ago. He is a family doc, scoutmaster and social worker for refugees. He had the misfortune to encounter a white police officer parked in his clinic’s parking lot. The office interviewed PJ at gunpoint, refusing to believe that this brown man owned the clinic building. PJ was just there to drop off some scouting gear and he was held at gunpoint.

The second link is to PJ’s blog, which contains equally interesting, and perhaps more pertinent discussions of his work in Aurora, CO. Two articles are specifically about his clinic and his patients’ experience during the pandemic.

His story is not unique unfortunately. Sadly, there are all too many examples of how doctors of color have been and are continuing to be treated.

I work at Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, an FQHC in San Jose. Our agency is both an urban Indian Health Program as well as an FQHC.

  • 52 percent of our patients identify as Hispanic/Latino
  • 17 percent identify as Asian
  • 17 percent identify as White Non-Hispanic/Latino
  • 4 percent identify as Black/African American Non-Hispanic/Latino
  • 3 percent identify as Native American/Alaskan Native

Thirty-seven percent of our patients identify that they would be best served in a language other than English. Almost all are on Medi-Cal of some form or another. Clearly, racism, implicit bias, poverty and access to education are at the root of many of the health problems faced by my patients. I look forward to working in our agency with some of the tools and resources listed here to identify and work around our implicit biases.

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