Discussions about equity in health care are typically saddled with medical jargon and well-used statistics intended to raise alarm about the disparate outcomes of marginalized communities.
A United Way of Lancaster County Zoom panel Wednesday, however, took a decidedly different tack.
To be sure, stats on ALICE — Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, an acronym used to describe the working poor — were bantered about. But the data wasn’t the real share. That came from the panelists who, in telling their own stories, illustrated how diversity education starts with self.
Take the story Dr. Sharee Livingston, chair of the OB-GYN Department at UPMC Lititz, shared.
While a preferred provider to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community, she disclosed she had used exclusionary language in a recent public discussion about child birth, having used “birth mom.” The preferred terminology is “birthing person” because some individuals giving birth are non-binary and do not define themselves as male or female.
“We have to push ourselves to a higher standard,” Livingston said.
After this misstep was pointed out to her, Livingston said she out sought trusted friends in the LGBT community to “grow” from what she called her “shortcomings.”
Both Livingston and Dr. Cherise Hamblin, a diversity and inclusion officer and OB/GYN physician at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, said medical schools and residency programs stop at the training, leaving it to physicians to figure out the communities they serve.
“The more experiences that we have, the more broad and inclusive our perspectives can be, and our approaches to problem solving,” said Hamblin, who is also the founder of Patients R Waiting.
Formed in 2019 and based in Lancaster County, Patients R Waiting is a nonprofit organization that focuses on eliminating health disparities by increasing diversity in medicine.
The personal stories didn’t stop there.
Hamblin spoke about students of color “languishing in the pipeline,” waiting for admittance into medical school.
And Sandra Valdez, Chief Operating Officer for the Spanish American Civic Association, talked about an experience with her mother she had had just before jumping on the Zoom meeting. Although her mother is bilingual, medical terms in English can be difficult for the non-native speaker.
Valdez offered to translate.
The medical staff told her no and instead used a medical tablet for translation services.
Because not all Spanish is the same and the translation services did not use the Puerto Rican dialect, Valdez said her mother struggled to understand the conversation with her health care provider.
At the end of the day, becoming more inclusionary — the panelists said — is about recognition.
“It’s about being transformed ourselves,” said Kevin Ressler, United Way of Lancaster County president and CEO.
Ressler added, “It has to always be more than just expecting the other to assimilate to our ways, our power, our access, and saying you’re allowed in if you become more like me.”
Moderated by Susan Baldrige, executive director of the Partnership for Public Health, “Conversations about OUR Community: Are you being seen?” was the third in an occasional series designed to create a public discussion around United Way’s focuses on health, education and economic mobility.