The University at Buffalo says many minorities have trouble establishing trust with their doctors. In an attempt to better understand why, UB medical students and faculty talked health care over dinner with some East Side residents.
Vivian O’Jumu says relationships with doctors in the African-American community are now similar to their relationships with the police.
“When I was growing up, police walked the streets. Now they drive by real quick or when you see them the lights are on,” she said. A student at the table responded, “I guess in that way doctors are similar.”
O’Jumu wants to see doctors be more personable with their patients.
“He didn’t say, 'How did you feel yesterday? How’s it been going?' I guess he decided he would just leave that for the psychiatrist," she said. "But, still, there’s things my son wouldn’t tell him that I might have said to him. He had swelling behind his ear. He didn’t mention it.”
Cheektowaga resident Abraham Glover told medical students he hopes they stay in the area after they finish school.
“I don’t know if most doctors stay here when they graduate. I don’t know the statistics behind that," Glover said. "I would hope that they would because they get all the training here and they should give back to the community.”
O’Jumu was one of several in attendance that commented on feeling rushed once in the doctor’s office.
Second-year medical student Karole Collier said she is concerned she could lose her ability to stay grounded while pursuing her degree.
“I really know sometimes most people get caught up in med school and paying for it and getting out, getting the residency. It becomes a list of check boxes that you need to get and sometimes you lose how to be in touch,” Collier said. “I hope that for many communities, whether that be the Latino community or the Muslim-American community or the LGBTQ community, I think we are all needed and we’re all special and we all bring something critically important to the table.”
UB Center for Medical Humanities Director Linda Pessar said with the population becoming increasingly diverse, it is important they start listening and adapting.
“The entrepreneurial private practitioner practicing at the community in which he or she lives and grew up is a fading idol, Pessar said. "If we don’t become responsive to community members, we will not practice the medicine we need and hope to practice, and it seems to me that’s the bottom line.”
Pessar said they can’t change national politics surrounding health care, but with communication they can change things locally.
“We can’t know this if we don’t ask and we can’t know this if we don’t have discussions," she said. "I think those are reasonable goals. We don’t often enough ask people what’s the matter with the services we give you and how can we make it better?”
The residents at Thursday evening's dinner who didn’t trust their doctor said they often turned to self-diagnosing themselves or putting off a visit all together. UB officials say they hope this meeting is the first of many.
“People like myself and other people that are in the community that don’t have other opportunities to talk to a doctor or a nurse, to sit down and discuss things of what we can do to make it better. I think it’s the greatest thing that UB school and you guys can do,” said Glover.