From Publishers Weekly
When White attended Stanford in the late '50s he was one of four students of color. A recommendation letter written by a mentor then included "this is a pale, colored boy" to avoid misunderstanding. Now White recounts his ground-breaking life in an engaging, matter-of-fact manner. Eight of the 12 chapters tell his amazing story, from his birth in 1936 in a segregated Memphis (his trailblazing father, a doctor, died when White was only eight), to a 1967 tour of Vietnam wherein White worked in a leprosarium, to a fellowship at a biomechanics lab in Sweden, to his appointment to head a new orthopedic academic program at Harvard. A chance encounter with a woman who felt doctors judged her by her full-body tattoo led White to consider disparities in health care. Challenges exist on both sides of the stethoscope, White argues, noting that the uncertainty felt by many African-American patients over how they will be perceived also impacts the medical encounter; the burden for alleviating racial and other disparities (such as those based in age, gender, and sexual orientation) falls on the medical and educational communities. Accessible, thought-provoking, and valuable. 17 halftones.
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Armed by the unique perspective afforded by being both within the American medical establishment and an African American whose grit and talent put him there, highly respected Harvard Medical School professor White is a crystal-clear visionary. The best means to improve health care for all, he says, is for medical schools to produce physicians who are not only scientifically competent but also equally culturally competent. A culturally competent physician is one who can individuate patients, separating them from the physician’s own ingrained racial, religious, gender, or other minority stereotypes. Although many would argue otherwise, study after study has proven that physicians and hospital staff on the whole dispense a lower quality of care to minority patients. Females white and non-white, homosexuals, and the elderly, among other minorities, are also treated differently than white, middle-class males. The result of this poorer quality of care is measurably higher mortality rates among minority populations. Part stirring autobiography, part reasoned apology for egalitarian health care, White’s book makes a powerful case. --Donna Chavez
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