• By Joe Dangor

2 Mayo Clinic studies examine discrimination, bias in health care organizations

June 3, 2019
three males and one female seated in a row, unfair gender discrimination at work concept

CHICAGO — Two studies that explore types of discrimination and gender bias in health care organizations were presented by Mayo Clinic researchers at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

Katharine Price, M.D., a Mayo Clinic medical oncologist, and Rahma Warsame, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hematologist, presented an abstract that reviews discrimination and inclusion among hematology and oncology trainees during a poster session on Saturday, June 1, from 1:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Their study involved anonymous telephone interviews with 17 hematology and oncology fellows regarding discrimination, harassment and inclusion. According to the study, discrimination toward fellows was common, and it was more common from patients than staff.

"Discrimination from patients was most common based upon accent and race, but also was reported based on gender, ethnicity and being perceived as 'other,'" says Dr. Warsame. Trainees said that having diverse colleagues and supportive programs, and being involved in organizational leadership, were helpful to promote inclusivity.

The second study, led by Narjust Duma, M.D., chief hematology-oncology fellow in Rochester, zeros in on speaker introductions and how professional titles have been used at past American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meetings.

"Gender bias can be reinforced through the use of gender-subordinating language and differences in forms of address," Dr. Duma says.

The study reviewed 781 presentations from the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting video archive and found that women were less likely to receive a professional form of address and more likely to be introduced by first name only. Men who introduced speakers were more likely to introduce women by first name only. Women who introduced speakers were more likely to introduce speakers by their professional title, regardless of gender.

"Our results suggest that unconscious bias may be present and be a driver of gender disparities in medicine," says Dr. Duma, who will present her findings Monday, June 3, at 2 p.m.

The 55th annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, held May 31–June 4, is the largest international meeting of oncology clinicians, allied staff and researchers.

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