Insights on Identity: Overcoming My Biases During COVID-19
Florida’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on March 1st, the day before my inpatient pediatric clerkship began. I spent my morning in clerkship orientation and afternoon in a COVID debriefing session where I learned about the screening algorithm used to determine who would be eligible for our very limited testing access, as we expected cases to begin appearing and climbing in our own hospital at any moment. The strong emphasis placed on only ordering tests for those with international travel history or known exposure put me at ease. Our city is small without a major airport; I doubted whether I’d meet a single patient that would meet testing criteria.
My COVID-19 briefings shifted over the next several weeks from large group formal training sessions, to team-based Grand Rounds via Zoom, to isolated, frantic Google searches from home once medical students had been dismissed from the hospital. Despite the distressing coverage, one theme, in particular, haunted me differently: how COVID-19 was demonstrating higher mortality rates among populations of minority and lower socioeconomic status (SES), possibly explained by biased early screening procedures. By focusing on international travel history, we had unknowingly zoomed-in on COVID-19’s manifestation within populations of a higher SES — those with the privilege or social circles who are able to engage in such a luxury.
This experience turned my understanding of bias and identity inside out — or rather, outside in.
I had been cognizant of my bias towards others at times, but never have I identified my capacity to be actively complicit in extending bias myself. Not once, during the weeks of screening patients of minority and lower SES backgrounds, did I consider the unfairness in the assessment process for a test they may have needed. I could have done more to inform them and their loved ones of their need for isolation, close monitoring, and opportunity for intervention before it was too late. I am ashamed of my arrogance, heartbroken for my broken system. Yet, I remain grateful for this experience and this new insight into how bias can take hold of me if I am not continuously holding myself accountable in finding ways to work against it.
A fourth-year medical student and PCP Team Co-Leader reflects on the impact of biases among health care providers during COVID-19.
"Thank you for inspiring a generation of future docs to become primary care physicians. I definitely felt like I had a community during medical school."
Family Medicine Resident, UC Davis San Joaquin General Hospital
“Over 100 members of the UNC community have participated in our Relational Leadership Institutes… one word stands out for me in our evaluations — regardless of whether cohorts met in person or via Zoom — and that word is transformative."
Josh Hinson, MSW, LCSW
Assistant Professor University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work
“So far, my experience in this Relational Leadership course has been THE highlight of my leadership journey. This program exceeded my expectations. I have been sharing the content with my colleagues who are also inspired by it. Thank you for making the world a better place one Relational Leadership course at a time.”
Relational Leadership for Clinician Leadership Program Participant
“A big impact that Intend Health has on me is it makes me more humble, kinder, more intuitive, a better listener, and I’ve been able to teach the skills I’ve learned to others. All of this makes me a better team member, and I think that that's integral to what Intend Health teaches — we need high functioning teams to provide the best care.”
Student Action Network Participant
"In a healthcare system fraught with silos and computer screens, we need the human voice — a personal connection — now more than ever. That's the work of Intend Health."
Matt Lewis, PhD
"This year, there's been so much change with COVID, with work, with everything. But I feel like the PCP Student Action Network has been that constant that I could always just count on. And my favorite part is that no matter how stressful work was, no matter how stressful the year was, whenever it came time for a PCP call or any PCP anything, it's always something that I look forward to."
Student Action Network Coach
“I participated in RLI [the Relational Leadership Institute]... and my world has not been the same since. The community that I’ve gained at RLI has been extraordinary. Being part of RLI means being connected to a diverse, interdisciplinary community that breaks down the walls that are typical in academic medicine.”
Katie Gradick, MD, MHS
University of Utah
“Relational skills are particularly important right now because they’re rooted in people, with the fundamental assumption that we are good and have common values. If I can approach with unconditional positive regard and build in psychological safety, who knows what we can accomplish, despite the chaos around us.”
Lexy Kliewer, LCSW
Oregon Health and Science University
“Relational Leadership is what keeps me going. When I feel overwhelmed, stressed, down, I turn to members of the Relational Leadership community for support and resilience. We genuinely care about each other. We put ‘people first,’ truly, in our work together.”
Sarah Smithson, MD, MPH
Assistant Dean for Clinical Education University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine
"I think the collaborative work that Intend Health does to recruit bright, energized, resilient, diverse, and compassionate primary care physicians all over the country will be even more impactful. Intend Health's efforts will be a big part of the solution to mend our ailing primary care infrastructure in the coming years."
Peter Meyers, MD, MPH
Family Physician, Minnesota Community Care
"I have employed and used so much of my Relational Leadership experience and training from Intend Health to work."
Krisda Chaiyachati, MD, MPH, MSHP
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
"The leadership skills, relationships, and perspective I have gained through my involvement in Intend Health have shaped the clinician, educator, and leader I am today."
Kyle Turner, PharmD
University of Utah
Sign up for our communications
Stay updated on Relational Leadership news and workshops.