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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with dermatologist Dr. Victoria Barbosa, we discuss how to address implicit bias in dermatology.

MD Newsline:

How can dermatologists address implicit bias in their practice? How might their doing so improve healthcare for underserved communities? 

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Dr. Victoria Barbosa:

“The first step to addressing implicit biases is to recognize that we all have them. And there’s no shame in that. We all have different lived experiences that shape our worldview. But we have to accept that others have different worldviews. And so, it’s important that we examine our own biases so that we can address them both to be better doctors and better people.

I think that there are some things we can do to address our own implicit biases. Particularly in the health setting, we have to treat people as individuals, not as stereotypes. And there’s a little trick you can do if you want to make sure that you’re not looking at someone as a stereotype. When you see someone, whatever first comes to your mind, you think about them as the opposite.

So, for example, if you’re treating someone who is unhoused, think, ‘how would I behave, and how would I treat this person if she lived in a mansion?’ And then you make sure that how you treat the person who is unhoused is no different from how you would treat the person who lives in a mansion.

But more importantly, I think stereotypes start to crumble when you get to know people as individuals. And this means that you really need to meet people from different backgrounds, cultures, and orientations so that you can have a better understanding on a more personal level of what other people’s lives, experiences, and worldviews look like. And when you expand your world, some of those implicit biases start to crumble.

As healthcare providers, we must address our implicit biases so that we can best treat our patients, particularly our marginalized patients from underserved communities. Our patients face so many barriers just in getting to our office. Right? There may be financial barriers, time constraints, and trust issues. So, once we get our patients in front of us, we have to be able to provide compassionate, accurate, and appropriate care, diagnosis, and management so that they can thrive as their counterparts do.”

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Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.