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Seeing Patients: Unconscious Bias in Health Care Hardcover – February 14, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0674049055 ISBN-10: 0674049055 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (February 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674049055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674049055
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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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Customer Reviews

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Dr. Augustus White III has lived an interesting life, and come out on top.
Ann G. Rosas
Dr. White"s story added compelling information regarding issues of health care for the poor and people of color.
Barbara F. Flythe
Should be required reading for all house staff in every training program across the US.
Patricia P.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Roger J. Malebranche on January 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am in my 70s and can identify with Dr White's experiences. Being from Haiti I was not prepared for the harsh realities of the White American racism of the early 60s, but like Dr White I managed to persevere and survive. I wish I could have reached the position of power he is in but few physicians, Black or White, will and the advice I would give a fellow Black physician is to be as knowledgeable and competent as he can, be a caring role model and show the young African American, that he or she could also be a successful professional. I still remember a 6 years old black child I was checking for hernia, looking at his mother with disbelief and asking her :"Is he a doctor" ? and the pride on the mother's face when she answered " yes Honey he is, and one of the best ". We need the "Dr Whites", they are the visible ones but we also need the foot soldiers, the average, competent Black generalist slaving on every city's hospital ward. We need the Super Blacks but we still need thousands of just good ones. The more good minority physicians there are out there, the more defenseless minority patients will benefit from being seen through understanding brotherly and sisterly eyes. One thing Dr White did not mention was a tendency in the 60s and 70s for minority patients to consciently make the choice to go to White surgeons because they did not think minority surgeons were as good as their White counterparts. Projected ingrained feelings for having been looking as inferiors for so many years. I saw that often and it broke my heart. Thank God I noticed a reversal in my later years, when I became well known and a White patient would insist on having me instead of one of the White surgeons on the staff. Yes, Thanks to Dr Augustus White and many unsung Black physicians, better days are coming, at last.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amy on June 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written and compelling book. However, the book was far more autobiographical than I expected or than the title implied to me. Health care disparities has been a research area for me, so I was hoping for something that synthesized the history and research in greater depth than this book does. That being said this is a great introduction to the topic and Dr. White's life story is very illustrative of how African Americans have experienced health care over the past 60-70 years. Well worth any health care provider's time.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Augustus A. White III, the son of a physician in segregated Memphis, graduate of Brown (undergraduate degree in psychology), Stanford (medical school) and Yale (residency), Vietnam War combat surgeon, renowned orthopaedic surgeon and researcher, first African American to chair a department at Harvard Medical School, and former master of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Society at Harvard, has a most impressive résumé and interesting life story. Fortunately he shares his life with the reader in the first half of this outstanding book, and he is a surprisingly gifted story teller, with a style that I found completely captivating. He encounters racial prejudice along the way to the top, but handles these obstacles with grace and aplomb, in keeping with his upbringing in the African American middle class community of Memphis who nurtured and praised him while stressing him to be humble and grateful for the gifts and opportunities he had been given. He was also taught to be a role model for others, and as he became a respected professor at Yale and Harvard and a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons he used his position to advocate for greater representation of racial minorities in medical schools and orthopaedic residency programs, and to address the inequalities in health care and medical outcomes that minorities, the women, elderly and other populations continue to experience in the United States.

In the second half of the book, Dr.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By malcontent on August 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
While I enjoyed parts of the book, I felt the title was very misleading. This is more of an autobiography. It is reasonably well written but long winded.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Hannie on March 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very good book and I recommend it to those that like to read. A very true book. I think most people do not realize the bias in health care, even when it comes to patients waiting in the doctor's office or the exam room. I think it would be good reading material for doctor's.
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By Patricia P. on March 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A candid look into the life of a physician-in-training during segregation and the civil rights movement and how his life experiences influence his practice and teaching today. Should be required reading for all house staff in every training program across the US.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dr. White has given us a roadmap for understanding how our own subconscious biases affect how we think and treat others. An accessible AND research-based exploration that includes reflections on his own impressive journey and gives new importance to the critical role cultural competence plays in delivering effective, equitable, dignified medical care.
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