Published on September 27, 2019

Awareness of implicit bias leads to better health outcomes

Jessica Brewer, LMH Health

Implicit bias is defined as an unconsciously-held set of associations about a social group. It is called “implicit” because people do not realize the biases that they may accidentally portray. On October 1, LMH Health and the LMH Health Foundation will sponsor an implicit bias educational program at the Lawrence Arts Center called “Unlocking Implicit Bias.”

Erica Hill

Erica Hill, LMH Health Foundation Finance and Operations Manager, said that implicit bias is developed over the course of a lifetime by exposure to direct and indirect experiences. These exposures can affect our beliefs, actions and decisions. Implicit bias is especially harmful when personal attitudes and feelings about people that are different from us influence health and educational outcomes of others.

“The importance of having an educational program on implicit bias is that it brings awareness to a root cause for disparities in our community,” Hill said.

Though the hospital and the foundation are sponsoring this event, it is not just for healthcare professionals. It is an opportunity to have a shared learning experience as we work together to address equity in our community.

“Awareness and acknowledgment of our implicit biases is a step in the right direction,” Hill said. “Being aware of implicit bias can create new experiences and encourage a greater understanding of others, which should lead to a change in behavior, then ultimately, result in opportunities for all people to have the best health possible.”

Rebecca Smith, LMH Health Foundation executive director, said the LMH Health Foundation is honored to be supporting the upcoming seminar on implicit bias.

“Our LMH Health physicians and clinicians are among the very best in the country, and their commitment to community is second to none,” Smith said. “Thanks to donor support, the foundation is growing to support programs and initiatives that address the many aspects of health and healthcare. Philanthropy continues to ensure our hospital, and our community, grows ever stronger.”

Marcus Scarbrough, MD, chief of the medical staff at LMH Health, said that evidence shows that healthcare professionals exhibit the same levels of implicit bias as the wider population. The correlation of this evidence suggests that biases are likely to influence diagnosis and treatment decisions and in some circumstances, level of care.

“We need to consider that we may have unconscious biases and know how to deal with them so we do not make diagnostic or therapeutic errors,” Dr. Scarbrough said. “LMH Health strives to be a high-reliability organization with zero patient harm. This means dealing systematically with potential areas of harm like delays in care.  Our patients must trust us to do the right thing and recognizing implicit bias is an important part of our goal.”

Implicit bias is not something to be fearful of and pushed to the back of our minds. To grow and learn, the community must be okay with talking openly and addressing implicit bias.

“We need to be able to feel comfortable enough in discussing the possibility that we have implicit bias so we can handle it constructively and not try to ignore or deny that it may be occurring,” Dr. Scarbrough said.

Danica Moore

Danica Moore, district-wide equity facilitator for Lawrence Public Schools, has devoted her time to moving past just celebrating diversity. She strives to spread knowledge and create awareness that will transform systems of education and make space for kids and adults to be their authentic selves in schools and in society.

"Self-reflection on implicit bias is a critical part of interrogating and understanding one's true self,” Moore said. “The denial or refusal to engage in this process entraps one's soul and can be the difference in life and death both figuratively and literally for those who are impacted."

This community event discussing implicit bias is designed to bring about the self-reflection and education that Moore strives to provide. The collaboration within the community to spread equity has grown because of the partnerships and resources shared within Lawrence from the school district to the hospital and beyond.

The “Unlocking Implicit Bias” workshop, created by Jabraan Pasha, MD, FACP, is an opportunity for the community to join together to learn and gain awareness on this topic that can often have an effect on communities.

Jabraan Pasha, MD

Dr. Pasha has presented his workshop dozens of times locally, nationally and internationally. He is not a stranger to the Lawrence community, as he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas and his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Dr. Pasha completed his internal medicine residency training at the Mayo Clinic Arizona. He currently works as an assistant professor of medicine and associate program director for the Internal Medicine Residency program at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine in Tulsa and also serves as faculty director of Student Recruitment. Dr. Pasha will be the keynote speaker and panel moderator for the community’s upcoming workshop.

“I have been talking about implicit bias for almost two years,” Dr. Pasha said. “Really, how I got into it was that I just started reading on the topic very casually. I realized the care I was providing for some patients was undoubtedly affected by some of the implicit biases that I held and in order for that to change for myself and for other providers I knew there was work to be done in this field.”

Dr. Pasha said this workshop was created to help teach students, residents and faculty the impact implicit bias can have on a society. It was also created for people to know what it is and the reason people should be aware and mindful of the bias.

“For others to be receptive of the idea of implicit bias it is important to remove the feeling of shame and guilt often associated with it,” Dr. Pasha said. “The importance of a workshop like this is to one, make us realize we are not bad people because of it and two, we have these biases that are there, agree or not they are there, and this can help people take steps to correct it.”

LMH Health and the LMH Health Foundation would like for you to join us at this community event on October 1. Anyone and everyone is welcome and invited to come, ask questions, hear from different panelists and join the Lawrence community in being aware about implicit bias.

“I’ve gone wherever I can to try to talk about implicit bias and spread the impact,” Dr. Pasha said. “Given that these thoughts are unconscious, we are therefore unaware of the impact they have on our community and peers. When we are aware of our implicit biases, we are taking an important step towards equity.”

Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health.

Awareness of implicit bias leads to better health outcomes

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