By the University at Buffalo
Archana Mishra, M.D., is an accomplished faculty member in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. As a pulmonologist and critical care doctor, she has cared for patients internationally and in the U.S. Throughout the pandemic, she has been a frontline worker at the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center, tending to patients in the intensive care unit.
Mishra has also been the recipient of prejudiced remarks and worse from the very people she has been trying to help, and she has, on occasion, observed similar incidents targeting UB medical residents and students. That’s why she and some of her colleagues in health care are participating in an important virtual symposium from 4-5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, called “When Providers Face Bias: The Impact and How to Cope.”
The keynote speaker is David Kountz, M.D., associate dean for diversity and equity at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, vice president of academic affairs at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and co-chief academic officer for Hackensack Meridian Health.
The VA Western New York Healthcare System and the Jacobs School are co-sponsoring the event.
The goal is for providers to share stories and be empowered to address these and related issues.
“As a brown, overweight woman, who had spent my entire professional career globetrotting and switching between medical disciplines, facing ‘othering’ personally was something I accepted as the norm,” Mishra said. “I thought ignoring bigoted comments and ‘rising above’ the situation was what I needed to do as a professional, especially when it came from patients who themselves were suffering and vulnerable.
“However, as an educator and mentor, I cannot stay silent when I see open expressions of prejudice against my trainees. It is paralyzing to be the victim of prejudice, because nothing matters more in a patient provider relationship than trust and rapport.”
Mishra added that nearly half of the physicians in a recent national survey have had patients request a different clinician because of the provider’s personal characteristics, such as race, nationality or gender.
“Experiences such as these with irrational biases can get in the way of patients’ care,” she continued. “I have realized in my three decades in this profession that the hurtful comments a majority of the time come from ignorance rather than malice. Given the paucity of resources for helping providers deal with these situations, it does contribute to the rising epidemic of burnout.”
Mishra has led workshops on helping medical residents practice their skills in perspective-taking, communications and in confronting others about diversity and inclusion issues, such as micromessaging and implicit bias.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” she concluded. “However, events such as this ‘When Providers Face Bias’ symposium are critical. We need to discuss these important issues and come up with a framework for how to respond so that institutions can design policies and approaches to combat these aggressions when they occur.”
In addition to Mishra, other panelists include Jeanea Hundley, M.D., a Jacobs School alumna and medical director for Anthem Inc.; Shondra Brown, nurse practitioner with VA Western New York Healthcare System; Thomas Conboy, M.D., a psychiatrist practicing in Western New York; and Teresa Danforth, M.D., clinical associate professor of urology at the Jacobs School and a physician with UBMD Urology.