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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Healthcare portraiture and unconscious bias

Karthik Sivashanker, Kathryn Rexrode, and others
BMJ 2019;365:l1668
Published April 12, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Conveying the right message

In this regard, healthcare organisations have opportunities to instil a feeling of belonging and comfort for all their employees and patients. A simple but critical step is to examine the effect that their use of all imagery, as exemplified by portraits, has on their constituents. Are these portraits sufficiently conveying a message of social justice and equity? Do they highlight the achievement (as with a picture of a petri dish), or the person (a picture of Alexander Fleming without sufficient acknowledgment of his contributions)? Further still, do these images reveal the values of the organisation or its biases?

At our institution in Boston there was no question that the leaders depicted had made meaningful contributions to our hospital and healthcare. After soliciting feedback through listening sessions, open forums, and inbox feedback from our art committee, employees, clinicians, and students, however, our institution agreed to hang these portraits in their respective departments. This decision aimed to balance a commitment to equity with an intent to honourably display these portraits, which have inspired generations of physicians and scientists to be their best. It also led our social justice and equity committee to tackle problems like unconscious bias and diversity in hiring. In doing so, we are acknowledging the close interplay of symbolism and policy making in perpetuating racial and sex inequities, and the importance of tackling both together.

The info is here.