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When Racism Intersects Patient Care

A few years ago I had a patient who came into my office and he needed cataract surgery to help him see better.  I educated him on his condition and said, "I am going to send you to Dr. X.  She is an excellent cataract surgeon and will take good care of you."  
He went to see the cataract surgeon I recommended who was African American and female.  He consented to surgery and had the cataract extraction performed shortly after that visit.  He returned to my office for his one week post operative visit.  He was seeing great and the surgical results looked good.  I told him that I needed to see him back in one month to recheck his progress.  That is when he looks at me and said, "Dr. Collins if you ever need to send me to a surgeon again I would appreciate it if you would not send me to a N!66#r."  
As a doctor, I learned a long time ago that I need to send patients to the doctor who I would send me, my wife, or another family member to see for the same condition.  Then I know they are getting the best care that I can recommend.  This has served me well over the years.  When I get ready for surgery, I do not care if the surgeon is Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Athiest, African American, Asian, Causcasion, American Indian, Jewish, American, Italian, or any other subgroup that we as a culture label a person.  I want the surgeon with the best hands for what I am getting ready to have performed on me.  I treat my patients the same way.  
I realize that we all grow up and live in different environments.  Some of us have more exposure to other races, cultures, and religions while many in America have experienced a pretty homogenous life around whites of Anglo Saxon Christian descent.  This can give way to aknowledged and unaknowledged prejudices in one's attitudes toward people who seem different from you.  My years of practicing in Antioch, Tennessee served me well.  It is known as the"Melting Pot" of Nashville.  I took care of Egyptians, Iraqis, Latinos, Hispanics, and others from all around the world on a daily basis.  I was also been exposed to various religions.  I also grew up in the Delta in Arkansas where life involved more than just interacting with other races.  It involved living with people.  We grew up as friends, teamates, follow students, fellow employees, and Americans.  I have been on optometric mission trips with Athiests, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Americans, Hispanics, and people of Middle Eastern descent  who all cared for the patients as if they were...well family...isn't that what we are all "Called to do?"  It is not about race, religion, or nationality.
So I explained to this patient that I sent him to the doctor who I would have sent my family member to see.  I explained that I had the utmost respect for her and her abilities.  I finished my exam and never saw him again.  It is sad that we as a country are still divided in so many ways.  Most if not all of this division is based on fear and ignorance and nothing more.  Don't let this fear and ignorance rule your life...getting rid of this fear and ignorance might just change you...and the world!