HLAxLords The Forgotten Few
“Britain’s most at-risk groups of people are in danger of being forgotten and becoming trapped in disadvantage,” – EHRC ‘Is Britain Fairer? 2019
Doctors are known to have a variety of roles as a healer, a leader, a problem solver and an advocate just to name a few. But what do we really mean by ‘an advocate’?
Let’s take the man that sits just outside the coffee shop with no place to call home for instance; or the lady and her young children who have been forced to flee the war-torn country that is all they’ve ever know. As I began my medical training and morphed into a student doctor, my response to these individuals changed. My once avoidant body language changed due to the thought that ‘they could one day be my patient’. How would I like them to feel?
For many, the NHS serves as a pillar of protection in the community. In their opinion, there is no logical alternative and they’re willing to place their confidence, healing and lives in the hands of the NHS doctors. What a privilege! And what a BIG responsibility!
It is very easy to be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. It is only natural to gravitate to people who are like yourself. But is prioritising our own comfort doing these individuals an injustice, depriving them of the compassion and care reserved for only the patients that are like you?
“Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our difference. Our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them.” – Judith Henderson
Why does this matter?
It is a common misconception thattreating people differently is the cause of resentment, so we should treat everyone the same
With certain ethnic minority groups still the most likely to live in deprivation, at a greater risk of becoming homeless and have poorer access to healthcare, their families can become confined in disadvantage for generations.
The truth is treating everyone the same can actually lead to indirect discrimination.
For example; if a group of people are out for a meal, the main goal is for everyone to eat. However, if you order the same meal for everyone at the table, ignoring their individual dietary requirements, not everyone will be able to eat. Therefore, everyone was treated the same, but the outcome would be unfair.
Being an advocate for your patients means recognising that individual needs differ, and equal treatment will not result in equal outcomes.
Being a advocate means understanding that equality is not achievable without equity.
Olamide Dada is a Medical Student who is the founder of Melanin Medics, a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting the community of African-Caribbean aspiring medics, medical students and medical professionals in the UK