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May 1, 2024

Combating unconscious bias

Welcome to 2024, the Modern Age in which certain behaviors are now second nature: Chew with your mouth closed, greet co-workers when you walk into your office, cover your mouth when you cough, and don’t let cultural and social biases affect your job.
These basic dos and don’ts are so much a part of everyday life that certainly no one needs to be reminded.
…Or do they?
This year, PracticeLink sponsored the AAPPR keynote address with Doyin Richards, an anti-racism consultant and public speaker. He discussed the prevalence and impact of implicit bias in health care, particularly in recruiting and hiring physicians.
It’s particularly a timely topic because of two bills moving through Virginia’s state legislature that would
require medical professionals to take implicit bias training to get and keep their licenses.
Richards helps clients become aware of any negative attitudes they may have toward people who might not
align with their own sense of self and personal identity, whether it’s race, gender, weight, religion, sexuality,
disability and more.
"When I deliver my anti-racism training, I sometimes go unfiltered," says Richards, who spoke with PracticeLink
before the conference from his home in southern California. "Some people like it; some people say they’ll never go
again." That might be because Richards doesn’t cut anyone slack. "When someone says, ’The reason why we don’t hire ’blank’ is because the talent pool isn’t there,’ I think that’s a convenient excuse," he says. "There are plenty of people in med school that are brown and black. We have to do a better job of highlighting opportunities and making connections."
"It comes down to learning about your biases," says Richards. Bias can manifest as being closed-minded, prejudicial, suspicious or unfair.
Richards, who has facilitated nearly 1,000 diversity-related workshops for audiences from executives to kindergarteners, said that bias in the healthcare industry can be dangerous. "It is especially important for physician recruiters to be aware of their own implicit bias and to know how to recognize bias in physician candidates. This is so important because these are people with the ability to impact life or death."
"In many ways, racism is at its peak," says Richards. Even so, bias is often unconscious, which is why workshops and awareness tests are so important.
"Everyone has biases," says Richards. "The issue is if your bias gets in the way of doing your job. …When you’re
working for Company X, you need to tuck that in and not let it get in the way. You cannot bring it to work. You have to mask it, or better yet, get rid of it."
When interviewing physician candidates, Richards said recruiters can have conversations like, "Talk to me
about your background, where you grew up or biases you have." Recruiters can also ask the physician candidates if there are any groups or religions that make the candidate uncomfortable. "Based on the line of questions," Richards suggested, "recruiters can glean what a candidate’s implicit biases are."
When he’s not consulting or speaking to large gatherings, Richards is home in Los Angeles with his two daughters. "I am a basketball dad," Richards says. "I love basketball more than most people. Both of my daughters play. I spend a lot of my weekends watching them play ball."

Georgia Scott

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