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Dear Patients of Color: You matter to me. #BLM

A vow to changing the level of health disparities in our country by practicing in a new light, one that's antiracist.

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COMPASSION. As healthcare providers and movement professionals we have a duty to empathize and be compassionate. We hear, we see, and we validate what people are feeling and saying. It usually includes fear, pain, and anxiety–that’s JUST to start. Then we ask questions, we learn, we investigate, and often times I go home thinking of how I would feel if I were my patient, feeling what they are feeling. So THEY don’t have to be scared, worried, or in pain.

Everyone is deserving of being heard and cared for. It frustrates me that I can’t do that as quickly for this country. My heart breaks for those who have lost their loved ones to this type of tragedy.

Remember the Tuskegee Experiment? Look it up if not.

I have decided to shift my own narrative from “I am a clinician who wants to help everyone regardless of age, sex, or race, etc”…to “I am an ANTI-RACIST clinician…” I think this carries more weight. I think this has more intention. I think this forces me to take extra steps to help contribute to the cure. Implicit bias in healthcare is real. Racism is real. Every time another black life is lost, the pain signal is amplified exponentially. Enough is enough.

My healthcare professionals: we know health disparities exist. But it’s not enough to just learn “a certain population is more likely to act ____ because they are ____.” I think we should commit to asking “Why?” Did you know black men wait longer for an initial EKG? I had a speaker tell my class once, that he has to wear a SUIT if he is going to the emergency room for treatment just so he does not wait longer. Can you imagine feeling like you’re having a heart attack, and then worrying about getting a suit on before you go to the ER? The ER! Why do they feel that way? Implicit biases and racism exist in healthcare and it is unacceptable. We have to do better.

I can confidently say 90% of the black patients I have treated have come to me with a story of a failed healthcare encounter because the clinician brushed the patient off and did not believe what they were saying. If this doesn’t outrage you, I encourage you to review your white coat oath. I challenge you to take active steps in your practice to FIX THIS. Reach out to predominantly black communities, volunteer at health fairs, volunteer in sports programs in underserved communities, seek out black clinicians and hire them, learn.

“In a racist society it’s not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” -Angela Davis

So Dear POC,

As your physical therapist, I promise I will stand with you and fight for your equality. You are my patient, client, and responsibility. You matter to me. I will advocate for you because I care. I am your ally every day and your advocate inside the clinic. I stand with you. Thank you for letting me care.

Yours truly,

Dr. Malek, PT, DPT

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