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Presentation at NYU School of Medicine

Presentation Date: 12/05/19
Location: Saul Farber Auditorium, NYU School of Medicine

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On Thursday 12/5/19 I will be giving a presentation to physicians and residents of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care Department of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine. The presentation, focused on “Dehumanization in Medicine“, will review empirical and epidemiological date that demonstrate the influence of provider bias on healthcare discrepancies. Empirical studies show that healthcare professionals hold implicit, nonconscious attitudes which are biased against certain minorities, similar to the level of such biases in the general population.

Implicit attitudes are thoughts and feelings that we do not consciously uphold, we might not be aware of, and might even not be willing to acknowledge to ourselves. Studies show that while not intentionally prejudiced nor conscious, implicit attitudes do influence what healthcare professionals do, how they communicate with patients, what clinical decisions they reach, and even how they contribute to health outcomes for the patients.

It is important that providers become aware of implicit, nonconscious attitudes in order to be able to find solutions that will help reverse and counter such reactions. Evolutionary psychology explains the substrates of some processes that evoke distancing and negative reactions towards those whom we perceive as not having a fully working mind, those who evoke disgust in us, and those whom we perceive as racially/ethnically different from us. Our evolutionary heritage, aimed at increasing our chance of survival in a much earlier environment in the history of the human species, has not yet caught up and is mismatched with the conditions in modern, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic medical settings. The presentation will offer ways for healthcare providers to become aware of their own implicit reactions and counter them to allow greater empathy and better patient care.

              Irit Felsen

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