Letters to the Editor – White Male Whining? – 1

Frankly, it is sad that after a semester at Colgate you still wouldn’t feel comfortable attending a forum with people who look different than you. I can assure you, as someone who has attended a myriad of events in search of intellectual diversity and free food, you would have been welcomed.

Had you attended, you might have learned that there are a myriad of health disparities among a range of populations. These health disparities translate into deaths that could have been prevented and illnesses which could be treated more effectively. Some of these disparities can be partially explained by cultural differences among races and others have more to do with the intersection of class and race. Additionally, there is a third category that has to do with institutional failures when it comes to marginalized populations.

Simply put, the attitudes doctors have and the way they treat their patients directly impact the quality of care a patient receives. In the United States, blacks have a higher rate of heart disease but are much less likely than whites to receive heart bypass surgery. Studies indicate this is as a result of two factors. Blacks seem to be less willing to undergo invasive surgery and racial prejudice of doctors is impacting decision-making.

Not only is it important for marginalized groups to know their risk factors and advocate for quality treatment, it is also important for doctors to recognize their own biases and work with patients to make the best decisions regarding their healthcare. As it turns out, white males can play a significant role in addressing these health disparities.

As you pointed out, it might not be immediately apparent that an individual identifies with a marginalized group. It is therefore crucial that we indicate our willingness to talk about challenging identity-based issues. The more information a physician knows about a patient, the higher quality of care that physician can provide. When physicians use inclusive terms such as partner, LGBT individuals are more likely to disclose their identity. When heteronormative physicians make assumptions, patients remain in the closet and quality of care is compromised.

What does all of this mean? White males, like everyone on this campus, play an important role. As a campus we need to be willing to talk about difficult issues. When it comes to health, secrecy and dismissive attitudes toward talking about personal subjects kills. Colon screenings can be awkward to talk about and it is likely that neither my white male dad nor his physician wanted to spend much time talking about the technical and preventative differences between a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy. Maybe if they had, my dad would have undergone the better test. Maybe he would have seen me graduate from high school.

Please, do not be afraid to leave your comfort zone. Attend events that you might not normally go to. Learn to have these difficult conversations. Be willing to make mistakes and then learn from them. The conversations that are taking place on this campus are too important to miss. If you would rather not go alone, ask me and I will go too. Especially if there is free food.