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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with pediatric hematologist/oncologist Dr. Ahmar Zaidi, we discuss how to provide culturally sensitive care and overcome language barriers.

MD Newsline:

How have you been able to implement culturally sensitive care in your practice?

Dr. Ahmar Zaidi:

“I’ve really modified my style to go from more talking to more listening. I spend a lot of time listening to patients. I ensure that when we are seeing patients with sickle cell disease, we’ll spend time on rounds talking about the medical complications of sickle cell disease, but we’ll [also] spend time talking about psychosocial complications, [and] we’ll spend time talking about racism, bias, prejudice, and how they play into healthcare.

Because I think that ensuring that we continue to have these conversations with our medical trainees is going to be the best way to promote this type of culturally competent care that is respectful and addresses the elephant in the room, which is that this healthcare system historically has been terrible to the Black population. Right? We have to acknowledge that fact and address it regularly.”


MD Newsline:

How do you deal with language barriers so that they don’t impede your ability to deliver quality care?

Dr. Ahmar Zaidi:

“We know that, of course, we’ve been talking about the Black population with sickle cell disease here, but there [also] is the Hispanic population that’s affected tremendously by this disease, the Arab population here in Michigan that’s also affected. So the language barrier does come up from time to time.

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I’ll be honest with you, the language barrier for any disease process is problematic, right? Sickle cell disease is no different. We’ve collated some resources and references that we can print out and give to patients, but that’s not ideal. We also have medical translators, but again, that’s not ideal.

The ideal situation would be to have a physician that knows that language to deliver the message, but that’s often not practical. Right? It often doesn’t exist. So that has been a challenge and something that we continue to address. It’s an ongoing battle for us.”


Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.

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