Shawnette Saddler, M.D.
By Shawnette Saddler, M.D.
When I was a medical resident and pregnant with my third child, I nearly suffered a stroke while waiting in the emergency room for treatment of high blood pressure. Fortunately, I knew enough about the urgency of my symptoms to speak up and demand the care I needed, just in time. Sadly, thousands of other women fair much worse.
Statistics show that Black women are three-and-a-half times more likely to die from complications during childbirth than White women, and the infant mortality rate in the Black community is significantly higher when compared to non-minorities.
To help bridge this gap, I recently participated in a virtual discussion hosted by The Broward County Library titled “Break the Bias: Black Women’s Healthcare in Crisis,” in recognition of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.
I joined a group of concerned female physicians from Broward Health and other providers to shine a light on common bias. We shared personal experiences and frank discussion regarding what Black women encounter while seeking medical care. During the session, my colleagues and I empowered participants by offering strategies they could use and shared a list of recommended questions they should ask their primary care physicians.
Through my professional and personal experience, there are two main obstacles to achieving access to quality care: access to affordable health care and implicit bias.
Health insurance is expensive, and levels of care vary greatly, limiting patients on everything from eligible, in-network providers to screenings and available treatments.
The second barrier, implicit bias, is not often discussed and is the biggest contributor to the disparities in healthcare for Black women in the U.S. There are preconceived stereotypes and judgments that are made as soon as a patient walks in the door. That may be a judgment of the single mom, who holds three jobs and therefore can’t get her children to the doctor, or the assumption that a patient with a history of drug use is there not for a legitimate medical issue but only to get a prescription refilled.
We all have unconscious biases. Refraining from jumping to conclusions and taking the time to individualize care is the solution. That’s why it’s so important for patients to be informed and to ask the right questions. In healthcare, it can literally mean the difference between life and death.
To make an appointment with a primary care physician at Broward Health, please call my office at 954-320-3390 or visit BrowardHealth.org.
Shawnette Saddler, M.D. is an Internal Medicine doctor with Broward Health Physician Group.