Study Shows Med Students Still Believe These Myths About Black Patients' Pain

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
It's no secret that the medical community treats Black patients differently than white patients, leading to delays in (or an outright lack of) necessary treatment. But new research looking at doctors' beliefs reveals just how deep those problems are — and how far we have to go to correct them.

For the study, published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Virginia performed two experiments looking at how racial biases might influence pain treatment for Black patients.

For the first experiment, the researchers asked 121 white people the extent to which they believed a few totally false statements about biological racial differences. For instance, many of them reported believing that Black people age more slowly than white people, that Black people have thicker skin than white people, and that Black people's nerve endings are less sensitive than white people's.

But even worse than that was the second experiment, in which the researchers asked 222 white medical students and residents (med school graduates who are training in a specialty) the same questions — and got dishearteningly similar results. The students were no less likely to believe the false statements about biological differences. The researchers also found that those who endorsed more of those false beliefs were more likely to say that a Black patient would feel less pain, which could result in seriously subpar treatment for the Black patients those doctors treat.

"The present work...demonstrates that beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites — beliefs dating back to slavery — are associated with the perception that black people feel less pain than do white people," the study authors write, adding that this translates to "inadequate treatment recommendations for black patients’ pain."

The only good news is that not every med student reported believing these myths. And those who didn't also didn't show any differences in treatment based on the race of their patients. But, come on. It's 2016. We need to be doing way better than this.
Advertisement

More from Body

Ragazzi mi state seguendo in tanti e vorrei ringraziarvi e scusarmi se non riesco a rispondere a tutti...vi proprio ho una foto che mi ricorda tutte ...
Update: Kopp's original Facebook post has been removed, and, as Shape reports, the chances of contracting an infection so severe that draining is ...
Breast-feeding has numerous benefits for both mother and baby, but it doesn't always come as naturally as we might assume. And, as one viral photo shows, ...
Pregnant women get a lot of advice about motherhood, even when they don't ask for it. And in the first episode of Expecting, from Refinery29's comedy ...
Last week, Kelly Stanley was breast-feeding her 9-month-old baby during dinner when someone else at her table decided to grab a cloth napkin and try to ...
Periods may be annoying, but at least they're predictable — sort of. If yours is a little delayed this cycle, and you're not trying to get pregnant right ...
It sustains life. It boosts immunity. It may or may not taste like the milk left over from a bowl of Lucky Charms. (Full disclosure: I sampled mine just ...
(Paid Content) Stress sweat is different from regular sweat in that it feeds off bacteria and causes odor. Then you start to think about it — producing ...
Gina Rodriguez is the master of keeping it real. She's been open about everything from losing her virginity to coping with thyroid disease, so it makes ...
When you see your friend's adorable baby, your first instinct, understandably, is probably to hug and kiss her all over. However, you might want to think ...
Two years ago, Ericka Hart was about to walk into a Sephora in Lower Manhattan when she looked down at her ringing phone, and stopped right there on Wall...
Eve Torres Gracie, former WWE wrestler and current very dangerous person, posted a moving Instagram photo of her post-baby body today. Inspired by the ...
In an interview for People's Mom Talk video series, model and actress Molly Sims opened up about suffering through a thyroid problem that went ...
When I think about the aspect of sex that has made me most anxious over the course of my seven years of sexual activity so far, it’s not the risk of ...