News Roundup | Week of March 30, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 3/30/18 9:57 AM

Implicit Bias Controversy Based on Misunderstandings

Implicit bias, and especially the Implicit Association Test (IAT), has been the subject of recent debate in both scientific and popular press. Is the IAT accurate? Are its findings useful? Does the concept of implicit bias impede efforts to address explicit bias? A new piece in Scientific American argues that the controversy around implicit bias and the IAT is based on fundamental misunderstandings. For example, the IAT isn't designed to predict individual behavior, like how a particular physician will interact with a particular patient. Rather, the aggregate data can help predict (and correct) big-picture functions.

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News Roundup | Week of March 23, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 3/26/18 7:13 PM

How to Improve Diversity in Clinical Trials

As reported in previous News Roundups, a lack of diversity in clinical trials results in disparities in care among under-served populations. Recruiting different racial and ethnic groups, especially African-Americans, remains a challenge. A focus-group study conducted by Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center sought to learn what it would take to address this problem. Results show that trust and communication are key to increasing minority participation in clinical trials.

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News Roundup | Week of March 16, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 3/16/18 4:43 PM

Want to Get People to See a Doctor? Target Their Beliefs

The Tsimane people are an isolated tribe in Bolivia with a life-expectancy of only 50 years. Researchers from the Integrated Anthropological Sciences Unit at UC Santa Barbara published a paper analyzing why the Tsimane often refuse medical care, even when it's free and offered by people they trust. Their findings provide insights into why so many people around the world, regardless of background and education, resist going to the doctor even when they know they should.

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News Roundup | Week of March 9, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 3/9/18 3:42 PM

Cancer Screening Recommendations Put Nonwhite Women at Risk

In the United States, the recommended age for women to begin routine mammograms for cancer screening was recently increased to 50 years of age. This was based on a study of 747,763 mostly white women showing that breast cancer diagnoses peaked in their 60s. But researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have published a new study in JAMA Surgery that shows black, Hispanic, and Asian women tend to get breast cancer earlier than white women. A lack of data from racially diverse populations could put nonwhite women at risk for delayed diagnosis. According to David Chang, PhD, MBA, MPH, of the MGH department of surgery and an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, "The situation with breast cancer is one of the best examples of how science done without regard to racial differences can produce guidelines that would be ultimately harmful to minority patients."

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News Roundup | Week of March 2, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 3/2/18 1:59 PM

Bias Impacts Research in Precision Medicine

Unconscious bias can lead to negative outcomes for disadvantage patient populations, even when that bias occurs behind-the-scenes in research settings. A new report from Data & Society identifies several ways that datasets can become biased, including historical bias, analytical bias, and access to different types of genetic data. “Bias through invisibility—such as lack of data on certain factors—can trigger discriminatory outcomes just as easily as explicitly problematic data,” note the authors.

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News Roundup | Week of February 23, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 2/23/18 1:16 PM


Physicians Feel Unequipped to Treat Transgender Patients

The transgender population is underserved by the healthcare system, and one reason may be provider hesitancy. To meet the medical needs of transgender people, healthcare organizations, together with medical schools and residency programs, must incorporate training and content on how to care for transgender patients.

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News Roundup Week of February 16, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 2/16/18 10:53 AM

Medical Residents Lack Comprehensive Training in Cultural Competency

A report from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) presents data from medical residency and fellowship programs, which shows that clinical learning environments (CLEs) vary widely in their application of strategies to address healthcare disparities. Among other findings, the data demonstrate a lack of comprehensive training in cultural competency.

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News Roundup | Week of February 9, 2016

By Megan Bedford on 2/9/18 9:48 AM

Racial Bias Affects Trauma Outcomes

Dr. Adil Haider, a trauma surgeon at Harvard Medical School, has been studying disparities in emergency care outcomes for over 10 years. “People have always had this iconic image of emergency departments as the great equalizers,” Haider says. “There’s a perception that no matter who you are, if you have a trauma injury, you’re going to get picked up and receive the same level of care.” However, Dr. Haider's research identified large gaps in patient survival rates based on race. Compared to white patients with similar injuries, he found that black and Hispanic patients have a 20% and 50% greater chance of death, respectively. Socioeconomic factors, insurance status, and access to immediate emergency care all contribute to this disparity. But unconscious bias is also a likely culprit.

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News Roundup | Week of February 2, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 2/2/18 4:55 PM

New Report Links Black Maternal Mortality to Racial Bias

The Center for American Progress released a new report on the high death rates among black mothers and infants in the U.S. As previously reported here, black mothers die at at rate three to four times higher than white mothers, and infants born to black women die at twice the rate of those born to white women. The disparity is driving the country's overall maternal mortality rate, which is the worst in the developed world. This growing crisis can't be explained by socioeconomic factors. The report presents research showing that risk factors including income, education, and physical and mental health cannot account for the disparity in outcomes. Instead, the report points to systematic racial bias, including within the healthcare system. 

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News Roundup | Week of January 26, 2018

By Megan Bedford on 1/26/18 5:20 PM

Unconscious Bias Shielded Larry Nassar

The country was shocked this week by the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar, formerly the USA Gymnastics team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University. Dr. Nassar confessed to serial child molestation after being accused of abusing at least 150 underage girls during his career. A piece in The Atlantic argues that Nassar's behavior was sheilded by the tendency of medical providers to doubt female pain. This tendency stems from unconscious bias that labels women as "hysterical," "emotional," and inherently less trustworthy than men. 

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