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UVA Med Students Host Symposium on Racism in Medicine

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On Monday, students at the University of Virginia’s Medical School spoke out about a topic they say many have been silent about. The students hosted a dialogue concerning how patient health can suffer because of racism.

A new study reveals emergency room doctors prescribe less pain medication for black children diagnosed with appendicitis than for white children with the same condition.

Recently four medical students came up with the idea for "doctors in dialogue" after an African American student's bloody arrest last March. They say it's time racism ends, both in the community and in the hospital.

“We needed to have a discussion in the med school. It kind of had been silent,” said Lauren Evers, an organizer of the event. 

On Monday that silence was broken, as more than 100 University of Virginia medical school students came out for the event.

“We’re going to have diverse populations as our patients and it's important to know how to relate to them and know where they're coming from,” Evers added.

Speakers say having a conversation about race is especially important with this audience because they are the future of health care.

“It's not surprising that even physicians who are encountering people who are not like them are going to treat them differently than people who are like them and that includes giving pain medication. Unless we address the problems of race, we're not going to be able to address those disparities,” said Greg Townsend, an associate dean for diversity in medical education.

Organizer Adam Buckholz says it's unavoidable that biases show up in patient care, but hopefully this dialogue helps.

“I think that's really crucial to health care, to kind of understand that we all have those implicit biases and feelings and understand how to work through them to be productive and to help all the patients the way they deserve to be,” Buckholz added.

Some of the speakers say they hope the discussion will help these future doctors be more conscious of the way they treat each patient.  They say there is a long way to go, but this is a start. The event was held at the Claude Moore Medical Education Building. 

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