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UVA Kicks off Symposium on Unconscious Bias

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The University of Virginia is hosting a two day symposium on unconscious bias The University of Virginia is hosting a two day symposium on unconscious bias
Dr. Louis Sullivan, physician and health policy leader Dr. Louis Sullivan, physician and health policy leader
UVA's unconscious bias symposium at Newcomb Hall UVA's unconscious bias symposium at Newcomb Hall
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

The impact of unconscious bias on health and wellness in America is the focus of a two day symposium that kicked off Wednesday at the University of Virginia. 

The symposium is addressing solutions for unconscious bias, which often negatively affects how a patient receives medical treatment.

“It’s been there all along, we really just did not recognize it,” said Dr. Louis Sullivan, physician and health policy leader.

National experts, UVA faculty, and community members are all trying to find a cure for unconscious bias in America’s health system and worldwide. The term refers to assumptions health professionals might make.

"Sometimes a minority person coming into a hospital emergency room with an injury and with pain may even receive less pain medication because the physicians in the emergency room may be suspicious that this person may be a drug addict,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan served as the Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H. W. Bush.

Sullivan says there needs to be more racial and ethnic diversity among the nation's health professionals.

“One-third of Americans today are either Latino, African-American, or Native American but when we look at the health professions, we see that less than 10 percent of the nation's physicians are minority,” Sullivan said.

Unconscious bias training is part of the University of Virginia’s medical school curriculum.

“It’s one that we have discussed as a faculty, expanding throughout the four years and into residency training as well,” said Michael D. Williams with the University of Virginia Center for Health Policy.

The symposium at UVA’s Newcomb Hall will wrap up Thursday.

This is the first of its kind at the university. Faculty call it very timely.

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