Megha Shankar, MD: Promoting Antiracism Practices in Health Care

February 11, 2022
Armand Butera

Armand Butera is the assistant editor for HCPLive. He attended Fairleigh Dickinson University and graduated with a degree in communications with a concentration in journalism. Prior to graduating, Armand worked as the editor-in-chief of his college newspaper and a radio host for WFDU. He went on to work as a copywriter, freelancer, and human resources assistant before joining HCPLive. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, writing, traveling with his companion and spinning vinyl records. Email him at abutera@mjhlifesciences.com.

Dr. Shankar speaks to how physician training and patient conversations can evolve in dermatology through progressive antiracism efforts.

A recent study conducted by the Stanford Presence 5 Research Team at Stanford University School of Medicine detailed several antiracism practices that could be applied to clinical care.

The study was part of an ongoing effort by the team to address and combat the 3 levels of racism, which were detailed 20 years prior by Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones but persist in healthcare to this day.

In an interview with HCPLive, Megha Shankar, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California San Diego, spoke of how this study promoted racial justice across all clinical fields including dermatology by addressing complications within the healthcare system.

Among these complications are biases that exist in training and medical literature, and the lack of data on and representation of skin of color.

“When we think back, starting with training is kind of where a lot of the bias starts,” Shankar said. “We don't really see a lot of diverse skin in our text books, and I think a lot of it starts there, where we may be trained to recognize and diagnose a problem very specific to light skin and because of that, we might miss that (condition) on people who have darker skin, and then that system kind of perpetuates throughout.”

She noted that in recent years, the language and advertising methods regarding skin care products has changed to include more inclusive and appropriate language and cues. However, those same changes could be applicable to the conversations physicians have with patients with skin of color.

“Specifically talking about skin, we might see light skin as ‘normal’, and so sometimes clinicians might say, ‘on your skin, it looks like this, and on normal skin, it looks like that,’ when that's not the case,” Shankar said. “(Skin of color) is just as fine. So, it's important to think about those small things that we say that we may not mean. But it can really go a long way in terms of hurting a patient, and not only that but affecting their health outcomes too.”

To hear more from Dr. Shankar on how antiracism efforts can benefit the dermatology field, watch the full video interview above.


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