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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with pulmonologist and critical care physician Dr. Komal Parikh, we discuss the role of implicit bias in healthcare. We also discuss how to provide culturally sensitive care.

MD Newsline:

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

Dr. Komal Parikh:

“I think the most important thing is having well-rounded training. Fortunately, a lot of fellowships are in areas where you see diverse patients, not only in terms of race but also socioeconomic background and culture. Having that understanding and empathy are most important. Having financial advisors, case managers, and a multi-disciplinary approach really will help with that implicit bias. At the forefront of all of these strategies is education for everybody.”

 

MD Newsline:

How have you been able to implement culturally sensitive care in your practice? Do you believe doing so improves treatment adherence? 

Dr. Komal Parikh:

“Cultural sensitivity is something that we are taught, not only in residency, but also in fellowship, and I think we’re taught it very well. It kind of just becomes a part of you as the physician if you’ve had a very diverse educational background. You see patients from all walks of life in your training. You see very wealthy patients, and you see very poor patients. You see patients who have just moved to America, and you see patients who have been from America for generations.

You see very different types of people in training. I think that’s a very important aspect of our training, that we see patients from all walks of life. And so, it just becomes a part of you. It’s important to constantly remember that there are different cultures and people, and not everybody can relate to you. So, keeping that in mind daily is very important.

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The more you practice that cultural sensitivity, the more it becomes a habit, a ritual, and a part of you. And I think if everybody in the practice does so, it makes for a much more cohesive team, and it makes patients more trusting of you.”

 

MD Newsline:

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

Dr. Komal Parikh:

“Patients come in with English-speaking family members, and I think we use them as a crutch sometimes, and we just talk to them and then have them communicate the information back to the patient. But I try my best in every situation that I come across to utilize the translators. I think they’re very underrated and underutilized.

And so, even if there is an English-speaking family member with the patient, I think it’s very important to utilize translators so that you’re talking directly to the patient. You get across exactly what you want to say, and you get the answers catered to your questions.

And so I think making translator utilization a habit and not just using family members that speak English as part of the communication really helps.”

 

Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.

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