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4 Tips for Your Next Doctor’s Visit if You’re Black

Let’s be real. It’s no secret that the Black community and the U.S. medical system have quite the messy history. For one, the remnants of slavery have instilled racial bias not only socially but medically. Research from the University of Virginia has shown that African Americans are “systematically under-treated for pain compared to white Americans.” After all, we were used as guinea pigs by doctors, from forced sterilization to experiments on Black women that pioneered gynecology. Now, we must grapple with the grim reality, from the feeling that we aren’t being heard by our doctors to the maternal mortality crisis disproportionately killing our Black women. For your next doctor’s visit, here are some tips to consider to alleviate your worries as a Black patient: 

#1: Bring a Loved One to Your Appointments

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Unfortunately, racial bias has led many physicians to falsely believe that Black individuals can handle more pain than white people, which puts our lives at risk. For example, tennis legend Serena Williams’s request for a CT scan was denied by nurses in the delivery room because they didn’t take her concerns seriously. Only after multiple requests, a CT scan was performed to reveal that Williams had life-threatening blood clots in her lungs. To make sure your voice is heard, ask a loved one to accompany you on your next doctor’s appointment! With someone there to support you, you’ll become less anxious and feel more comfortable with a helping hand ready to reiterate your concerns. 

#2: Find a Black Doctor

Have you ever gotten the gut feeling that your non-Black doctor is underestimating your concerns and not fully listening to you? Try asking for a Black doctor! A study by the American Economic Review found that Black patients who have Black doctors are treated better and receive 34% more preventive services! The findings reveal that there is better communication and an increase of trust between Black patients and Black physicians. 

#3: Prepare Notes 

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Before heading to your next appointment, make a list of symptoms or questions you want to bring up to your doctor. Considering that a check-up is relatively short, it would be wise to have a list ready. In the end, you’ll make the most out of your time while improving your engagement with your healthcare provider! 

#4: Interrupt When You’re Cut Off

There should be a healthy balance in your relationship with your doctor. If your doctor continues to dismiss you by interrupting you mid-sentence, interject to make your voice heard. Even if what we are saying may be medically inaccurate, we still deserve to be respected. When walking out of the doctors’ office, we want to leave knowing that we have a mutual understanding with our health care provider.  

With the prevalent threat of racial bias adding to our long list of Black trauma, these tips can help ease our anxiety or worries when stepping into the doctor’s office. We demand to be listened to and respected, not only as patients but as human beings. For future reference, use these tips so you can leave your doctor’s appointment feeling satisfied and empowered.

Halle Antoine

UC Berkeley '22

Halle is a Senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Media Studies with a minor in Creative Writing. She is passionate about racial justice issues in which she hopes to help the community as a tennis coach and in her articles. When not on the tennis courts, you can find her listening to K Pop or watching Disney movies!
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