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House Bill 1285: Implicit Bias in Healthcare

Written By:

Carson Watkins

Publishing Date:

August 9, 2023

The amazing miracle of modern medicine has saved countless lives. However, below the surface is a silent epidemic of healthcare in America. Minorities in America are left behind in a system that often fails them. In Indiana, Rep. Vanessa Summers Introduced House Bill 1285

Implicit Bias in Medicine. In this bill, Summers wants the Indiana State Board of Medicine to establish educational programs for first-year medical students to learn about biases based on understanding implicit discrimination against minorities and skills to counteract these practices in healthcare. Medical Racism has a deep-rooted history that has led to mistrust with minority communities and medical professionals often seeing minorities not taking the recommended care. In 20th century America usually, African Americans were constantly being misdiagnosed. In February 1999, the New England Journal of Medicine released a bombshell report that forced Doctors to reckon with their own implicit bias. In her book Under the Skin (2022), Linda Villarosa recounts the study conducted by Dr. Kevin Schulman where Dr. Schulman had eight individuals, two men and women of white and black descent, wearing the same hospital robe and reading the same script. The study found that “Bias may represent overt prejudice on the part of physicians.” (Villarosa, 2022, p. 55). Dr. Schulman wished to clarify that he was not calling Doctors prejudiced, but stereotypes can play a role in treatment. A 2003 study in the Institute of Medicine, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care (2003), Found glaring problems in the treatment of minorities in medicine. In particular, the Institute found common ground with Dr. Schulman saying bias can negatively affect treatment saying, “However, because their origins arise from virtually universal social categorization processes, they may also exist, often unconsciously, among people who strongly endorse egalitarian principles and truly believe that they are not prejudiced.” (Institute of Medicine, 2003, P.7).

A person’s medical decisions are complex and personal. As multiple reports have said, accusing Doctors of prejudice is unjust. However, the bill that Rep. Summers proposes can teach a new generation of doctors to treat patients regardless of Race or socio-economic circumstances and restore the trust of Medical Professionals in minority communities.


HOBERMAN, J. (2012). Black and Blue: The Origins and Consequences of Medical Racism (1st ed.). University of California Press.

Metzl, J (2019): “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing American’s Heartland” Basic Books

Smedley, B. D., Stith, A. Y., & Nelson, A. R. (2003). Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. Washington, D.C. The National Academies Press.

Villarosa, L (2022): “Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and the Health of our Nation” Random House

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