Multiple studies have shown that minorities prefer and open up more to minority physicians. Most of you also know that one of the goals of this blog is to encourage minorities to insert themselves into the healthcare system. So it seemed fitting to start a new series on The Neighborhood Bioethicist called Minority Physician Spotlight. This recurring series will profile a minority physician as we chat about their motivations as a physician and their thoughts on bioethics. Check out this week’s doctor below!
Name: Dr. Jaysson Brooks
Medical School: Loma Linda University
Specialty: Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery
Residency Program: The Johns Hopkins Hospital
Current Location: Jackson, Mississippi
So tell me, why did you want to become a doctor?
I wanted to become a doctor probably because of the example of my mom. She was an atypical doctor: she didn’t really like evening calls, she would cut her older patients toenails if they couldn’t reach them, and she was, and is, so caring and personable. I think watching her as she got into her patient’s world and seeing how much they trusted her was really just amazing. Creating personal relationships through medicine is so special to me because folks will often tell doctors things they would not tell their pastor or their spouse. And science is just cool! So, to be able to combine helping people with science was a no-brainer for me.
What does it mean to you to be a minority physician?
Wow, that’s a deep, deep question…you know I think you can view this two ways. When it comes to being a minority physician to minority patients – you feel proud. I remember training in Baltimore, which has a historically poor and down-trodden black community. When I would walk into work with my white coat and see my older black patients, you could tell that when they saw me, they saw their sons. You would see the pride welling up in their eyes and how your presence mattered to that minority patient. Because for many of them, they came up in an era where that wasn’t possible, you know? Knowing that I can do that for them is something special. With the younger patients, most of them say that they have never been treated by a young, black, male doctor. I have had many opportunities to get into their world while treating them after being shot or breaking a bone. And because I am a minority, I see them as one of mine. I don’t just see a fracture, but I ask, “Why are people shooting at you?” And I actually want to know. I know I may not be able to actually change their lives. But I want them to know that I see them, I care about what they are going through, and that I want better for them.
With non-minority patients, sometimes there are unconscious biases they have about what a doctor should look like. As a minority physician, I am able to help break down the unconscious biases that may be present, and express that my knowledge is more important than how I look. Many times these biases are based on ignorance and not having as much experience working with someone who looks like me. Being able to break down these barriers can hopefully open up someone’s world view on minority doctors.
What are your thoughts regarding bioethics and minority patients?
I’ve actually struggled with this topic a bit. During my orthopedic training in Baltimore, I basically trained in the city where the Henrietta Lacks debacle took place. And of course, that took place years ago. But there is a strong history of distrust in the poor black community of Johns Hopkins. Some of it is well placed, but much of it is also not placed well. But because of that history, a lot of people won’t sign up for research projects that could otherwise help them. And when you don’t have good research projects, you don’t have good data for a patient population. And then most data ends up being based off of white populations and it is used to treat other populations – which is not ideal.
I also struggle with the that fact that the many best training programs for physicians are in the inner cities – places where there are a lot of poor patients and a lot of trauma. The only way to become a good doctor is to learn on patients. But there is more risk doing that though. It’s “easier” to do that learning on people who are poor because they usually don’t know what questions to ask. As I’ve come through the training system, I’ve seen people be a lot more cavalier with the poorer people who come through the system. And I don’t really know how to fix that. I also believe patients of lower socioeconomic status struggle with informed consent because they do not have that medical or science background. And that’s where being a minority helps because it is easier to identify that lack of understanding when you have seen and experienced lack of understanding in your own family.
Do you have any advice for minorities inserting themselves into the health care system?
I think that medicine is one of the last fields where altruism is still extremely prevalent. The majority of doctors these days aren’t trying to experiment on folks or just trying to make a buck. If a doctor is seeing you, they are usually, genuinely trying to help you. Give your doctor the benefit of the doubt. That also being said – patients also need to be a partaker in their own care. If they don’t have the knowledge or comfort to ask all the questions they need to, they should bring someone along to ask questions. Bring a friend, bring a grandchild, bring someone tech-savvy who can do the research. Doctors don’t want “yes doctor, no doctor” patients. I think patients get the best care when they take a hold of their own health and work with a doctor to improve their overall health.
I hope you all enjoyed our first Minority Physician Spotlight and found it helpful! If you would like to contact and make an appointment with Dr. Brooks, click here. See you all next week!
The Neighborhood Bioethicist
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