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Marcella Alsan on why having a doctor who looks like you might matter | Forbes

News | Oct 24 2019

Marcella Alsan’s research was featured in an article talking about a new initiative called “Black Men in White Coats” that is working to increase the number of black men in medical school. Alsan’s research fund that black men take more proactive health measures when seen by a black doctor.

“A recent Stanford Health Study showed that black men take more proactive health measures, such as flu shots and diabetes and cholesterol screenings, when treated by a black doctor. The randomized clinical trial among 1,300 black men in Oakland showed that 29 percent more were likely to talk with black doctors about other health problems and seeking more invasive screenings that likely required more trust in the person providing the service. While African-Americans comprise about 13 percent of the population, only 4 percent of physicians and less than 6 percent of medical school graduates are black, according to the study.

“It was surprising to see the results,” said Marcella Alsan, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford Medicine, a faculty fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and an investigator at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. “Prior to doing the study, we really were not sure if there would be any effect, much less the magnitude. The signal in our data ended up being quite strong.”

Specifically, researchers calculated that increased screenings could total up to a 19 percent reduction in the black-white male cardiovascular mortality gap and an eight percent decline in the black-white life expectancy gap.“In curative care, the patient feels ill and then may seek out medical care to fix the problem,” Alsan said. “But in preventive care, the patient may feel just fine — but must trust the doctor when he is told that certain measures must be taken to safeguard health.””

Read more: Black Men In White Coats: An Initiative To Increase The Number Of Black Men In Medical School

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