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‘Are You Calling Me a Racist’ Doctor’s Response to Being Challenged On His Care for a Black Patient Is Troubling

*Video courtesy of Bonnie Castillo, National Nurses United

A doctor says it took recognizing her own implicit bias as well as the racism of the health care system as a whole in order to get a Black female patient the treatment she needed.

Dr. Rupa Marya, a hospitalist and associate professor for the University of California San Francisco medical center, spoke at an industry event at UC Berkeley last week where she discussed the prevalence of racial bias in the medical system. Speaking to fellow doctors and nurses, she recalled an instance when a cardiologist refused a cardiac catheterization for her patient, who was African-American.

“I had a Black woman come in with back pain who every time she coughed, she would get chest pain,” said Marya, who attended the event hosted by National Nurses United. “…She had a very histrionic personality, so all the [medical] providers were inclined to just be like, ‘oh okay, let’s just giver her some cough medicine.'”

It wasn’t until Marya ordered an EKG that she realized the woman was actually suffering a heart attack. She said a recent study showing that Black American women have “the worst health outcomes of heart attacks because they’re not listened to” is what led her to run the test.

When Marya ordered a cardiologist to perform a catheterization to treat the woman’s heart condition, the doctor refused.

“So finally I said to him, I don’t want this woman to become a statistic that Black women get worse medical care around heart attacks than everybody else because the medical institution doesn’t listen to them,” she explained. To that, the doctor asked, “are you calling me a racist?”

Marya explained that she felt the health care system as a whole is racist and that they are all participants in said system.

“I had to check myself,” she said. “I think part of it is trying to unlearn our own implicit biases that we’ve been raised with in this society.”

Hear more in the clip above.

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