Issued by AMWA / Advocacy Leaders
A Facebook video posted by Susan Moore, MD, an Indiana physician who documented her concerns for racially biased care at an Indiana University Health (IUH) suburban hospital, went viral just before her death.
Concerned about her care after being admitted for a COVID-19 related illness, Dr. Moore, a family physician who practiced in Kokomo, Indiana, contacted the physician advocate for IUH and when not satisfied with the response, posted her concerns to her Facebook page. She was eventually discharged from IUH, readmitted to a different hospital 12 hours later, and died from COVID-19 just days later in late December.
In a press release, Dennis Murphy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Indiana University Health (IUH), noted his personal concern and commented that perhaps the hospital staff was “intimidated” by Dr. Moore.
While hospitalized, Dr. Moore was seriously ill and she knew it. She looked to the physicians, nurses, and staff for help. She wisely asked for more medical attention when things were not going well. Finally, out of frustration and fear, she shared her concerns online to be sure someone heard her. There was so much at stake.
Dr. Moore did what AMWA encourages all of our women physicians to do. She advocated for herself. She knew how to read her own medical condition and she voice concerns while still in the hospital. After she was discharged home, she reached out to her community on Facebook and told her story.
Black Women Speak Out and Still Are Not Being Heard, Even as Doctors
The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) has been a voice and vision of women in medicine since 1915. Throughout history, women physicians have had to manage those who deemed us not worthy. AMWA encourages women physicians to advocate for themselves and their patients. Dr. Moore was doing just that.
As a physician, Dr. Moore worked in the health care system. As a black woman, she understood the inherent racial bias that has led to health inequity. Then, as a patient sick enough to be hospitalized with Covid-19, she seemed surprised to encounter the racial bias directed at her.
Unfortunately, she was experiencing what many Black women face—a dismissible of her concerns. The belated response from IUH after her death was to express empathy and noted the “stress” of the staff.
Women in positions of leadership—in her case as a physician— have long dealt with being discounted, belittled, or being told to “smile more” and not act so “bossy”. Instead of being seen as confident and assertive, women who speak up are labeled as domineering and aggressive. So a smart, black woman physician advocating for her own health was considered intimidating? Perhaps, but that should have no bearing on her level of care.
Mr. Murphy missed the point. If Dr. Moore’s initial care had been appropriate and without bias, there would not have been a need for her to voice concerns about her care. AMWA understands the importance of advancing women, particularly minority women, who seek equitable treatment, just as we advocate for and encourage women in medicine to demand their right to be respected. Susan Moore, MD, deserved better; she deserved the level of care that she expected for all of her patients, and for everyone patient admitted to IUH.
Pew Research Trends. Women and Leadership. Available at www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/01/14/women-and-leadership. Accessed January 14, 2021.