The Undiscussed Reality of Privilege in Healthcare

By | August 22, 2019

As a member of the cancer community, I hear a ton of stories about disastrous trips to the doctor and not having needs met. I’m always shocked by these reports, as I have had nothing but great doctors throughout my cancer care – even including the urologist who took a testicle from me.

While you can probably tell from my headshot below, I am a white male. What you cannot tell from that cartoon is that I am straight, married, cis-gendered, and fully employed in the field of my choosing (along with great medical benefits). I also was in the gifted program in high school, grew up in a stable home with two loving parents who are still married to this day, and I hold both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, without any student loan debt. I own a home in one of the most highly ranked cancer care areas in the DC Metro area.

When I put the sum total of these parts together, I realize that I am literally the walking definition of privilege.

As I’m listening to a lot of these stories I referenced above, it’s not surprising that I’ve never experienced anything others have. From birth to present day, I’ve always had access to great doctors and not had to choose between paying rent or paying for my medical care.

In discussions I’ve had with female cancer patients and survivors, many of their concerns were initially brushed under the rug for reasons such as “you’re just complaining, pain is natural, or you’re too young to have cancer.” They had to be pushier to get the care that they needed, which then exacerbated the view that women are more “difficult” to handle in the medical world.

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This is a stark contrast to my experience. When I initially called a doctor to get the lump I discovered on my testicle examined, I just said I wanted a check-up. The scheduler told me that they didn’t have any openings for check-ups for two months. Then I added that I had a lump on my testicle, and suddenly a spot was available the second day.

It’s ironic to me that these anecdotes appear to show that men’s concerns about their health are taken more seriously, yet the, even when they need to go. On the flip side, women are asking for screenings and appointments but sometimes are turned away.

Regardless of gender, there exists discrepancies in how well care is provided.

As I’ve said, my doctors from birth have always been great. I credit my pediatrician for helping to save my life since he reinforced the need to do Yet, not all doctors provide this information to their patients, which is maddening.

The actual care received also varies wildly. I actually enjoyed going to my oncologist’s office – and still do. He, along with the entire medical team, sees me a person first and a patient/survivor second. They truly treat the whole person and not just the disease. Not all oncology clinics are welcoming places, and not all care is superb. Cancer sucks enough; the patient doesn’t need any more trouble in their life.

Since I’ve been fortunate enough to experience great care, I’m using my experience to help advocate for universal quality care. If you’re a patient, know that high standard care is out there. If you’re able, don’t be afraid to ‘shop around.’ Stand firm in what you want and deserve. Be respectful, but be your own best advocate.

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If you’re a medical provider, I understand that you have a lot on your plate. I work in public education so I am right there with you. But, please, see the patient as a person first, regardless of disease, skin color, gender, or any other qualifier. Take the time to listen to them. Feel free to reach out to me for a more in-depth discussion about what has made my doctors so great.

Only if we work together can we truly improve care for all.

What’s your take? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.

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