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Oncologist. 1999;4(4):325-31.

Race, ethnicity, and the patient-caregiver relationship.

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  • 1Kenneth B. Schwartz Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Hematology-Oncology Department, Boston 02114-2617, USA.


Shortly before his death in 1995, Kenneth B. Schwartz, a cancer patient at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), founded The Kenneth B. Schwartz Center at MGH. The Schwartz Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing compassionate health care delivery, which provides hope to the patient, gives support to caregivers, and encourages the healing process. The center sponsors the Schwartz Center Rounds, a monthly multidisciplinary forum where caregivers reflect on important psychosocial issues faced by patients, their families, and their caregivers, and gain insight and support from fellow staff members. Racial discrimination is a pervasive problem with multiple damaging effects. It is naïve to believe that medicine is somehow immune to race-based practices, but there is a growing literature detailing poorer disease-specific outcomes in minority populations for a range of illnesses. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine has implicated physician prejudice as a significant contributing factor. The March 1999 Schwartz Center Rounds sought to explore the influence of ethnic bias on the patient-provider interaction and the quality of health care delivery. Using a different format with a current affairs video clip and an interactive panel discussion, participants were encouraged to identify the often subconscious racial prejudices which may undermine their relationships with patients. Staff members were challenged to think creatively about how institutions and individuals might promote "cultural competence" and a more equitable health care environment.

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