A new study is shedding light on the experiences of Black physicians in Ontario.
The report, believed to be the first of its kind, surveyed nearly 50 Black doctors and found that 70 per cent of them had experienced racism in their careers, both from their colleagues in the health industry and from patients.
When it comes to discrimination faced by Black doctors from patients, it ranged from refusing to be cared by Black doctors, having racial slurs hurled at them, and only agreeing on a care plan once a white doctor has signed off.
Other forms of microaggression they faced included being mistaken for a nurse or cleaning crew as well as negative comments about their appearance.
While most respondents reported rare instances of discrimination from peers or superiors, some described feeling excluded from the so-called ‘old boys club’, a lack of mentorship and a lack of recognition for their work.
Dr. Onye Nnorom, the president of the Black Physicians Association of Ontario and one of the authors of the report, said when doctors are denied advancement into administrative positions due to racism, they are not present at the table to help shape policy and change the way the medical system deals with Black and marginalized patients. That not only impacts career advancement but also has a ripple effect on future policies.
“When we are not at the leadership tables, when we don’t have opportunities for advancement, then our voices are not heard and our perspectives and even cultural lenses cannot be taken into account for major decisions,” explained Nnorom.
“Now we are speaking out because we’re realizing that by raising our voices we might be agents of change for changing things for those who are Black and marginalized and coming into medicine and really for our patients as well.”
The report is also sparking calls for a better complaints procedures, which Dr. Nnorom said is lacking in hospitals, medical schools and health organizations.
“If they launch a complaint it is not addressed or taken seriously. Some hospitals don’t have a policy saying that won’t be tolerated. When it happens people don’t know what to do because there’s no policy.”
The report also found that many doctors suffer in silence because of their success for having defeated stereotypes in order to rise above in their community. An even with their years of study, they are not spared from the racism that Black people face on a constant basis.
Read the complete report below: