November 5, 2020By Lance Baily

Updating the Hippocratic Oath: New Doctors Fight Racial Injustice And Misinformation

NPR’s Sarah Boden wrote yesterday about an evolution of the Hippocratic Oath new Doctors take when dawning their white coats, expanding it to include efforts. In her article “A New Hippocratic Oath Asks Doctors To Fight Racial Injustice And Misinformation“, Boden shares how incoming first-year medical students recited a newly penned pledge against racial injustice and information, along with a traditional version of the Hippocratic oath, as part of orientation activities during their first week of medical school this fall. We also take a closer look at how clinical simulation can be used to address racial disparity within healthcare, with an invitation to an upcoming Columbia University Webinar on November 10th.

The earliest known version of the Hippocratic oath dates back to the fifth century B.C. Many iterations exist, and in many U.S. medical schools it’s become customary for incoming medical students to write and even recite their own versions; many of the variants include language that prohibits discrimination or bias in the practice of medicine.

Increasingly, medical professionals are joining protests for racial justice and acknowledging racism’s impact on public health. For example, Black residents of Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is the county seat, have been disproportionately hurt by the coronavirus, like Blacks in other parts of the United States. Though 13% of Allegheny County is Black, Black residents make up nearly 19% of cases and 30% of COVID-19 hospitalizations.


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“This pandemic has wreaked havoc on minority populations,” Sweat says. “It has revealed the many gaps within the medical field. … A lot of those gaps that this pandemic has revealed, those are things we need to go after to fix.” Bioethicist Laura Guidry-Grimes agrees this year has been a “paradigm-shifting time” that has brought a “reckoning” for medicine, and therefore she likes that the University of Pittsburgh version of the Hippocratic oath discusses COVID-19.

“[It acknowledges] that we have been challenged and learned the hard way … that what we’ve been doing is not enough,” says Guidry-Grimes, an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the University of Arkansas. The new oath asks physicians to eliminate their personal biases, combat disinformation to improve health literacy and be an ally to minorities and other underserved groups in society.

It also calls on doctors to learn about the social determinants of health “to use my voice as a physician to advocate for a more equitable health care system from the local to the global level.” But some worry that the proliferation of different versions of physician oaths could weaken their intended effect on the profession.

A 2004 paper in Academic Medicine suggested that the trend might even lead to “fragmentation and confusion about the ethical values of the medical profession.”


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Other HealthySimulation.com Articles on the Topic:

dismantling racism through medical simulation

Dismantling Structural Racism with and within Health Care Simulation Webinar

When: Tuesday, November 11th from 1-3:30 (EST). Registration is free

Dr. Kellie Bryant, DNP, WHNP, Executive Director of Simulation and Assistant Professor at Columbia University and her colleagues will be covering how healthcare simulation can be used to dismantle structural racism within healthcare institutions. This expert panel of speakers will present on various educational strategies to address structural racism in health care, promote cultural humility, and recognize health inequities. The session is structured into three panel discussions followed by a live question and answer session with panelist. The panels will address:

  • Why should leadership support simulation to help with structural changes?
  • What are the considerations to promote psychological safety for all learners?
  • How do we design simulations to promote cultural humility and address systemic racism?

At the end of the workshop participants will be able to:

  1. Identify experiential learning strategies to promote cultural humility.
  2. Develop teaching strategies for empowering learners to advocate for health equity.
  3. Summarize methods for creating a brave space for learners to discuss topics related to structural racism in health care.
  4. Discuss the role of educators/administrators in the healthcare field in addressing systemic racism.

Register for the Upcoming Webinar Here!


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