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'Almost like malpractice': To shed bias, doctors get schooled to look beyond obesity

Lauren Sausser, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

The Association of American Medical Colleges is trying to tackle the problem in two ways.

First, it developed a professional readiness exam for aspiring medical school students, called PREview, designed to assess an applicant’s cultural competence, social skills, and listening skills, as well as their ability to think through situations they may encounter in medical school and clinical settings. “We call them softer skills, but they’re really the harder ones to learn,” said Lisa Howley, an educational psychologist and senior director of strategic initiatives at the association. More than a dozen medical schools now recommend or require that applicants submit their PREview test scores with their Medical College Admission Test scores.

Second, the medical college association will roll out new competency standards for existing medical students, residents, and doctors related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in June. Those standards will address racism, implicit bias, and gender equality and will aim to teach doctors how to talk with people who are overweight.

“The bias toward those individuals is way too high,” Howley said. “We have a lot more work to do in this space.”

After the source of Melissa Boughton’s pelvic pain was discovered, the OB-GYN who had recommended diet and exercise to ease her symptoms told Boughton the tumor was no big deal. “She acted like it was the most normal thing in the world,” Boughton said.

 

Boughton sought a second opinion from a doctor who marketed her practice as a “Healthy at Every Size” office. That doctor referred Boughton to a surgical oncologist, who removed the tumor, her left ovary, and part of a fallopian tube. The tumor was large, but it wasn’t cancerous. And although the surgery to remove it was considered successful, Boughton has since had trouble conceiving and is undergoing fertility treatment as she tries to have a baby.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster,” she said. “I feel very young at 34 to be going through this.”

Boughton — who describes herself as someone who doesn’t “fit into the BMI box” — said the experience taught her to choose her doctors differently.

“You can ask me if I diet and exercise like once,” she said. Any more than that, and she starts shopping for a different doctor.

©2022 Kaiser Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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