Medicine, theater faculties team up to tackle racism in health care

Prejudice and racism – unconscious or not – affect health care, so representatives from the University of Texas at El Paso and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso are taking a dramatic role in training health care providers on how to deal with social started. discrimination.

With the fall 2022 semester underway, some faculty from both institutions infused training, workshops and curriculum with elements learned at a one-week training in August at UTEP to show participants how they can combat bias , can cultivate empathy and practice effective communication to enhance interactions with patients. and co-workers.

Hideki Tsutsui, chair and professor of theater at UTEP, was among those who participated in the Theater for Healthcare Equity workshop, which focuses on aspects of Theater of the Oppressed – using it as a tool for conflict resolution and community building A method of critical thinking to be done. It focuses on acting as opposed to talking.

“It’s a great outlet for theater to contribute to health care,” said Tsutsui, who presented the concept at the UTEP College of Health Sciences health disparities conference in September. “It acts as a bridge.”

Texas ranks in the bottom quarter nationally for health care treatment of blacks and Hispanics, but in the top 40% for treatment of whites, according to a 2021 report from the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based health policy foundation.

The report found that minorities were not offered the best available treatment and were denied or delayed in accessing services because of their race, ethnicity or the language they spoke.

Dr. Sadhna Chheda, associate professor of pediatrics at TTUHSC El Paso, participated in similar workshops in 2018 and 2019, as well as the August presentation. They liked how the program, which covers a range of roles, provides a safe space for medical personnel to share situations, come up with potential solutions, and encourage internal reflection and behavior change if necessary.

“In the end, you’re really trying to make people aware of certain things,” said Chheda, who requested UTEP’s involvement with TTUHSCEP leadership’s approval. “It has to come from within. With today’s environment being so polarized, I thought it was a powerful way to teach.”

Faculty members from The University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso participate in an exercise during the Theater for Healthcare Equity Workshop at UTEP in August. (courtesy of Theater for Healthcare Equity)

Adriana Dominguez, assistant professor of theater at UTEP, said she incorporated games and activities inspired by Theater for Healthcare Equity into her fall 2022 Latinx theater course. He said this helped his students understand the course material better. Dominguez said his department has submitted proposals to present the material at two national health care conferences in 2023.

Carly Goff, founder and director of Theater for Healthcare Equity, said the August workshop marked the first time she offered a session to participants from outside the medical field and the first time she held the training outside the University of Rochester in New York, where she is An educator in the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Gough, who earned theater degrees from Florida State University and the City University of New York, based the theater program on her passion for social justice and familiarity with Forum Theater and Theater of the Oppressed, which connects audience members to the actors on stage. Provides opportunities to connect. To be part of the story. It uses theater to rehearse reality.

The first three five-hour sessions focused on instruction. The “trainees” used the last two days to demonstrate their competency as trainers.

Goff called the inclusion of theater faculty a smart collaboration because it generated new ideas and revised existing ones. She noted that artist educators helped their medical fellows understand abstract concepts, allowing for deeper conversations about prejudice and racism. Gough said the main thing he learned from the experience was to use theater techniques to make therapy participants more playful as they move out of their comfort zones.

“It’s a process of discovery,” Gough said. “We are leading people to discovery and not telling them how it should be. We are discovering together because we do not have all the answers.

Rebecca Kenigsberg, director of the Restorative Theater Project and an educator who holds theater degrees from UCLA and New York University, served as Goff’s assistant facilitator. Kenigsberg, an expert on The Theater of the Oppressed, said she advises future coaches to use non-threatening and non-judgmental questions to dig into the real issues of prejudice and racism because the answers reflect those thoughts. instigate those who will trigger change.

“If it was easy to fix, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Kenigsberg said.

Dr. Sadhna Chheda, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso

Chheda, a Texas Tech professor and a physician for more than 25 years, said she has faced discrimination based on race, gender and age when she was younger. The pediatrician said that his medical training did not include how to deal with prejudice and racism.

He said that today’s medical students discuss the social aspects of patient treatment, but sometimes the message gets lost in the lectures. So she wanted local people to be trained in such instruction to help medical professionals in the region and beyond understand the negative impact of health care disparities.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there will be more than 178,000 health care providers in the state in 2021, including dentists, physicians and their support staff.

Of the community health workers, 61% were Hispanic, 22% black, and 36% female. Of the more than 58,000 primary care physicians, 7.7% were Hispanic, 6.4% were black, and 36% were female. Of the approximately 15,000 dentists, 11.2% were Hispanic, 4.5% were black and 37.7% were female.

Chheda and Tsutsui said they want their two institutions to continue working together to create a regional hub for interdisciplinary research and instruction on this topic.

Tsutsui said she liked how the focus on teamwork and nutrition methods with participants from different backgrounds could be adapted to talk about other difficult topics. He said he plans to use some of the techniques from the workshop to increase student engagement.

The professor said UTEP leaders were supportive of university participation, which included some faculty from the College of Health Sciences. Her hope is that theater and dance instructors will continue training with Goff and Kenigsberg to the point where her department can award certificates to students who want to conduct similar health care training for medical professionals.

“I think it will be popular with the students,” Tsutsui said. “It’s a new type of instruction.”

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