Healthcare must confront anti-Muslim bias

Despite the strides American Muslims have made in the healthcare sector, many still face hostile attitudes even at the nation's top hospitals, according to an opinion piece published by WBUR.

In the piece, Altaf Saadi, M.D., a third-year medical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, describes the reactions she's received from patients. Reactions range from well-meaning, such as a wealthy patient assuming the Harvard-trained doctor attended a "foreign medical school," to more open antagonism, such as a man demanding to know why she was wearing "that thing on her head" while she listened to his lungs, to even a patient with dementia physically assaulting her.

Statistics back up Saadi's anecdotes; she cites a study in the American Journal of Bioethics that found nearly 1 in 4 Muslim physicians report workplace discrimination. And discrimination persists on the other end of the provider-patient relationship as well; extensive research suggests physicians unconsciously prioritize treating not only white patients, but heterosexual ones as well.

When individual instances of bigoted behavior occur, Saadi writes, residents and students often keep quiet because the comments are often implicit rather than overt and they fear the potential consequences if they upset the apple cart. Not only do these incidents hurt employee morale, they hurt patients as well, Saadi writes, intensifying the already considerable stress of the medical profession.

"Overall, it's about understanding that these challenge--global and local--are interconnected," she writes, "and we will only be able to properly address the harmful prejudices in the medical profession, and throughout the United States, when we all come together and acknowledge each other's pain and America's pained history."

To learn more:
- read the opinion piece