In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with neurologist Dr. Mitzi Williams, we discuss the impact of neurologist implicit bias on patient care. We also discuss how neurologists can help rectify multiple sclerosis disparities.
How can neurologists address implicit bias in their practice? How might their doing so improve healthcare for underserved communities?
Dr. Mitzi Williams:
“As neurologists, we have to recognize that we all have bias. We cannot fix a problem if we don’t recognize that it exists. So, the first step is recognizing that due to our lived experiences and even our previous medical experiences, we may have certain biases.
I think the next step, especially with MS specifically, is to recognize that the demographics of MS in the United States are changing. For example, even when I was in training, we said that MS was a young white woman’s disease. Well, studies over the past decade suggest that the incidence and risk of MS may be higher in Black women, and Black women may also have worse outcomes.
So, we need to have the suspicion to look for MS in these populations that traditionally have not been thought to be regularly diagnosed with MS.”
How would you recommend neurologists help rectify MS disparities?
Dr. Mitzi Williams:
“I think one way to help rectify MS disparities is to recognize implicit bias and to do the work that each of us needs to do to combat that bias. I think the other thing we need to do is listen to our patients when they tell us about their symptoms and believe them.
There was a recent article published about the experience of MS in Black women, and many of them said that their symptoms were not believed when they went to the doctor, and that’s something that I commonly hear in my own clinical practice. So, investigate every patient, just like you would do for your mom or someone who’s close to you. And that would be a good start in trying to rectify MS disparities.”
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.