A prominent lawmaker in Indiana is drafting a bill that would require cultural awareness training for the state’s health care professionals.
This call for action comes after Dr. Susan Moore died of complications from COVID-19 in late December, after alleging racial bias in her care at IU Health North Hospital.
According to news reports, Moore made a video from her hospital bed and the video went viral on social media, drawing comments from doctors, public health experts and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Susan said she was treated “like a drug addict” by a white doctor when she asked for pain medication.
“I don’t want another Black woman to have to go through this,” says Rep. Robin Shackleford. “We need to do whatever we can to make sure our patients and our Black women are not feeling even more stressed when they go to the hospital.”
A draft of the bill requires the state health department to establish the training program to show how ethnicity, religion, language, sexual orientation and gender identity can impact a patient’s healthcare. It also requires the state to gather statistics from healthcare facilities on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status — a move to help public health experts identify disparity trends and gaps in care.
According to a report from the Indiana Health Disparities Task Force, Black and Latinx communities are being hit hard by the virus. The Black Legislative Caucus said in October that 18.7 percent of the deaths were Black Hoosiers and more than 20 percent were Latinx. Many issues are involved, including the fact that patients of color have long emergency room wait times and experience discrimination in care.
Dr. Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo of New Hyde Park, New York, says Black women often experience “medical racism.” In 2019, she created the company Melanin, Medicine & Motherhood to help Black women in medicine and academia cope with workplace bias, microaggressions and discrimination.
As Black women, we tend to really just continue to be disrespected, devalued, dismissed,” she says. “Dr. Moore predicted her own demise. How do we stop normalizing struggle and sacrifice? How do we start living the life we deserve?”