On February 15-16, Center Assistant Professor Dr. Karen Kelly-Blake attended the National Association of African American Studies (NAAAS) and Affiliates 25th Joint National Conference held in Dallas, Texas. This conference marked the 25th gathering of scholars from across the U.S. and more than twenty countries. Dr. Kelly-Blake’s presentation was titled, ““Danger Talk”: The Covert Costs of Racial/Ethnic Concordance in the Medical Workforce.” The presentation reported preliminary results of a 2000-2015 scoping literature review that examined medical workforce policy strategies for increasing under-represented minorities in medicine. The research is a multi-institutional collaboration with Libby Bogdan-Lovis, MA (MSU), Nanibaa’ Garrison, PhD (University of Washington), Faith Fletcher, PhD, MA (University of Illinois at Chicago), Brittany Ajegba, MPH (MSU), Nichole Smith (Vanderbilt University), and Morgann Brafford, BS (MSU).
Dr. Kelly-Blake discussed the rationales and strategies that are employed to increase under-represented minority (URM) physician workforce capacity. She began by asking the audience to provide reasons for why it would be important to increase URMs in the medical workforce. The top three replies were: communication, cultural sensitivity, and the need to reflect general population demographics. Dr. Kelly-Blake agreed with the audience that these are often the primary justifications provided in the literature. Under-represented minorities (URMs) disproportionately shoulder the burden of care to the underserved, and most often in under-resourced communities. The problem, or the “danger talk” is that selectively placing service expectations not similarly placed on White physician colleagues along with unexamined assumptions of racial/ethnic concordance between patient and physician may place an unfair and unequal burden on URMs. Dr. Kelly-Blake further suggested that such service commitment rhetoric might unwittingly dissuade URM physicians from pursuing research and professional leadership opportunities. In short, welcoming URM physicians into the “house” of medicine, but then limiting their service to the kitchen. Dr. Kelly-Blake concluded that increasing URM physician presence in the medical workforce is indeed admirable and welcomed, but policy initiatives that influence URM’s futures in the medical workforce may have hidden, unanticipated and restrictive consequences.
To learn more about this research, watch the Bioethics Brownbag & Webinar Series talk from Dr. Kelly-Blake, “Covert Costs of Racial and Ethnic Concordance in the Medical Workforce,” recorded on January 18, 2017.