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Doctor Describes Patient Racism In Oregon

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Racism is very much alive and thriving in the medical field, as an Asian-American emergency room doctor has experienced firsthand.

Dr. Esther Choo has been practicing medicine for over 10 years, and yet she says that patients will still refuse to let her be their doctor, specifically because of her Asian descent, CNN reports. Choo, based in Oregon, initially posted a description of her dealings with racist patients on Twitter last Sunday.

Choo said, “We’ve got a lot of white nationalists in Oregon. So a few times a year, a patient in the ER refuses treatment from me because of my race.” She added in successive tweets, “The conversation usually goes like this. Me: ‘I understand your viewpoint. I trained at elite institutions & have been practicing for 15 years. You are welcome to refuse care under my hands, but I feel confident that I am the most qualified to care for you. Especially since the alternative is an intern.’ And they invariably pick the intern, as long as they are white. Or they leave.”

She added,

I used to cycle through disbelief, shame, anger. Now I just show compassion and move on.

Choo’s tweets come on the heels of an incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protestor was killed after a violent white nationalist gathering. Her experiences are common in the medical community, Choo said in an interview.

“What I’m hearing from my colleagues is that this is a daily occurrence for many of them, at least experiences of prejudice. The patient who outright refuses care is less common, but I definitely heard from a lot of people this week that they have also had that exact same experience.”

Choo described how this prejudice is so blatant and frequent that medical professionals have come to view it as “a routine part of our jobs.” She said, “Maybe it’s that they’re from another country or because of their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation or their gender. But I’m hearing it from a lot of physicians that this is not unusual.”

She is rarely able to get patients to change their minds, Choo stated. “Usually you cannot. I’ve found in my experience that you cannot talk people out of their ideology.”

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