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UB, VA to host online symposium on physicians and bias some face

Dr. Archan Mishra
University at buffalo
Dr. Archan Mishra

She has cared for patients worldwide, including many within the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Buffalo. But Dr. Archana Mishra, an associate professor at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine, says some of those patients have subjected her to unfortunate prejudice and bigoted comments.

Thursday, March 10 at 4 p.m., she will be one of the participants in an online symposium, “When Providers Face Bias,” hosted by the Jacobs School of Medicine and the VA Western New York Healthcare System.

“What really worries me is that sometimes these biases and prejudices that really enter in that physician-patient relationship can lead to bad outcomes, because it is about that human connection,” Mishra said. “And if you're not, not really, you'd not be able to gain the trust of your patient. You may end up with not having a good therapeutic relationship. So it is not something that we can ignore. And that's why you know, events, like when providers face biases and how to respond to it, it’s important, because they need to be training in approaches to combat the issue. And policies are not enough.”

The keynote speaker of the symposium is Dr. David Kountz, associate dean for diversity and equity at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. Those interested in following the forum must register before 4 p.m. at this link.

Mishra shared some of her experiences with WBFO in advance of the symposium. She has sometimes been targetted for unwarranted comments due to her brown skin, or her weight. She recalled one occasion when a patient refused to allow her to treat him.

The doctor explained in that particular case, the patient – a veteran – was apparently injured by an Afghan person, and carried that feeling when interacting with her. Mishra says she has worked to overcome the comments and do what she has to do as a professional. But she does not tolerate her students being subject to such abuse.

Among the things that concern her is the potential for compromising the confidence of the medical student, creating an “imposter phenomenon.”

“If a person's self esteem is heard, the imposter phenomenon just kind of takes off and can really impact the person's performance and eventually can lead to burnout, which is an epidemic in the healthcare setting now,” Mishra said. “So, we have to be able to nip it in the bud, or at this time when that depersonalizing event occurred. And to provide that support to provide that assurance of competence to the physician who was targeted is really critical.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.