Many years ago , I heard it said that you were either part of the problem or part of the solution , and if you think you ’ re just going to stand by to see where things go before you step out , you may be part of the problem . As a white male I had a lot more questions than I did answers when it came to racism and implicit bias , I knew I needed to be a student . I needed to start asking myself and my friends the hard questions and listen openly to the responses . I first started by reading more to learn and educate myself , and so my journey began .
In an effort to become more aware of my own blind spots I started by reading a book about racism . Then I read several good articles about racism and implicit bias , and watched several YouTube and TED Talk videos on these subjects . These are listed on the resource page at the end of this article . I also reached out to friends and colleagues of different races and genders to seek to open dialogue and ask questions so that I could learn . The questions I posed : “ How have you experienced racism in our community , in your work and in your leadership ?” and “ How have you seen implicit bias in the profession of medicine ?”
No doubt it was a little awkward . It was uncomfortable for me and probably more uncomfortable for them . They gently helped me begin to open my eyes as I clumsily stumbled across their path . One friend spent a considerable amount of time with me , sharing his personal story , and provided some insightful historical facts . This conversation was highly beneficial to my awareness and ongoing growth . My friend asked me a lot of uncomfortable questions and patiently gave me a lot of time to search myself to find honest answers from within . Afterwards , he followed up and asked me , “ What are you going to do about it ?” I can ’ t tell you how grateful I am for him taking me to task . That ’ s what friends are for , right ? They tell us what we need to hear , not what we want to hear . Friends ask the hard questions .
This past year as GLMS President-Elect , I was afforded the valuable opportunity to participate in Leadership Louisville . There were over 40 people of diverse backgrounds in my class . The knowledge and personal growth I experienced was amazing . During one particular Zoom lecture , the guest speaker who was giving a history lesson on racism in our country , provided time for a question and discussion period . I had been looking forward to opportunities to have real , difficult , open , honest conversations and discussions about racism , implicit bias , diversity and inclusion . I was nervous , but I
4 LOUISVILLE MEDICINE
OWNING MY IMPLICIT BIAS
didn ’ t want to merely walk away with lecture material and information . As awkward as it was , I took the risk and asked a question on the microphone . The presenter informed me that he was sure I meant well by asking the question but , he pointed out that my stated question had just revealed my own implicit bias . I confess that I was totally unaware of it , until he pointed it out . Truthfully , it was quite humbling in the moment and people from my class were very gracious afterward and encouraged me to keep asking awkward questions . I ’ m not sure if I would have become aware of my own implicit bias any other way . As I am continually learning and attempting to be a student on the subject of racism and implicit bias , I am continually learning to set my pride aside .
In my journey so far , I have learned that I must open up and communicate better . As I begin to take meaningful steps in this direction , I am becoming more aware of my thoughts , my words , my actions and inactions . I have to continue to be willing to ask questions that might reveal my own weaknesses and then humbly listen to the responses . I want to continue to grow , to do more and do better to uncover and transform my own implicit bias .
Upon reflection , my journey began by first , admitting that there is much I do not know and that I have much to learn . Secondly , I had to acknowledge , accept and embrace what I didn ’ t know . Third , I knew I needed to be a sponge in order to grow in awareness . To become a sponge , I read books and articles . But , being a sponge also meant I needed to meet with people and learn from them , to stop talking , and listen to learn . Going forward , I have committed myself to continue to look inward and grow . To reflect a better image outwardly , I must honestly transform on the inside . My goal is to be both self-aware and other-aware , meaning I ’ m aware of my implicit bias and how it can affect my relationships with everyone , including my patients .
I invite you and challenge you to join me as we strive towards unity and caring better for ALL people and to be a student , to listen so that you might be more aware and grow in how you treat and provide care for your patients . In order to continue improving as physicians , as healers , we must continue looking inward to better understand our implicit biases so that we can then widen the lens that we peer through .
References : https :// glms . org / wp-content / uploads / 2021 / 06 / Sosnin _ Resources . pdf
Dr . Sosnin is a primary care physician practicing at Baptist Health LaGrange Family Medicine .