Addressing Unconscious Bias in Healthcare

Highlights from the Unconscious Bias in Healthcare Symposium | Oct. 14, 2022



“In my mind the racism behind the unconscious bias of Shalon’s medical team led to the death of my highly educated, funny and loving daughter – Dr. Shalon Irving. I am not a big believer in treating the symptoms or applying the band-aid approach – I feel we have to acknowledge the root of the problem and deal with it. Though we have a long way to go, I acknowledge there is a lot of good work being done to change the paradigm. California is playing a big part in leading the way.” “ Spurred by the preventable maternal death of her daughter – Dr. Shalon Irving – Wanda Irving underscored the devastating impacts of structural inequities, the urgency to dismantle racism in medicine and encouraged healthcare providers to continue their work to address the national Black maternal health crisis. Speaker: Wanda Irving, MPA, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project


“ “Although there has been progress in supporting bills that deal with required bias training, that will only scratch the surface and it is imperative that we do so much more. We owe this to our patients, our communities and to this great state to utilize our knowledge, our data, our collective voice, which also includes the voices of our patients and their families, to advocate in every aspect of society to create healthier communities and a healthier California.” Assemblymember Akilah Weber, M.D., discussed the state of policy in California and how to reverse the harmful, historic impact of unconscious bias, noting the importance of not just designing policies, but ensuring policies and interventions are implemented and measured for impact. KEY INSIGHTS & STRATEGIES FROM SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS PANEL DISCUSSION: MEASURE WHAT MATTERS – IDENTIFYING & MEASURING CONSTRUCTS THAT ARE IMPACTED BY UNCONSCIOUS BIAS IN HEALTHCARE Experts from academia and clinical backgrounds discussed how to define success and measure impact of unconscious bias mitigation and interventions. Speaker: Akilah Weber, M.D., California State Assemblymember, District 79

Key Insights:

RETHINK HOW WE MEASURE IMPACT Racism and other forms of discrimination and mistreatment (e.g., sexism, classism, ableism, ageism) are integrated into every system, and healthcare must acknowledge its role in perpetuating harm among historically marginalized people. In addressing bias as both long-term and ongoing, we must also collect data from those experiencing marginalization to better document the role of racism and other forms of discrimination in health outcomes. Practitioners and scientists must build mechanisms that change how we measure bias – and collect data at the policy, health care system and provider levels to improve patient outcomes. INCLUDE COMMUNITY-LED INTERVENTIONS Community members – especially those who are disproportionately impacted by structural inequities – provide valuable insight into how interventions can be designed, implemented and evaluated for impact. Community members deserve to be equal partners. Funding boots-on-the-ground experts and organizations ensures interventions highlight the history and pervasiveness of structural racism, which is essential to mitigating bias. BE INTENTIONAL, ACTIONABLE AND TIMELY While rigorous research must be used to guide the development of interventions, delaying the implementation of novel interventions in favor of trying to find the perfect answer inhibits progress. Moving forward towards effective solutions requires a balance of making a decision to implement a strategy, while intentionally testing it and measuring its impact in real time.


Rashon Lane , Ph.D., MA, Senior Health Equity Scientist, Sutter Health Institute for Advancing Health Equity Amy Jin Johnson , MA, Executive Director, Project Implicit, Inc.. Brittany D. Chambers , Ph.D., MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Ecology and Community Health Scientist, UC Davis Sylvia Perry , Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University

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