Winston F. Wong, MD, medical director of Community Benefit at The Permanente Federation and Kaiser Permanente’s medical director for Community Benefit, recently joined an American Medical Association (AMA) panel to discuss ways in which the novel coronavirus may uniquely impact physicians from different racial backgrounds, communities of color, and minority patient groups.
The panel – Prioritizing Equity: The Experience of Physicians of Color and COVID-19 – was hosted by AMA Chief Health Equity Officer Aletha Maybank, MD, and featured other physician leaders from the AMA, National Medical Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, and Association of American Indian Physicians.
Dr. Wong, who also serves as chairman of the National Council on Asian Pacific Islander Physicians, discussed how the organizations represented on the AMA panel are all facing similar challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It reaffirms to me how much of our organizations have so much in common in terms of fighting for the needs of our communities that have been so vulnerable and marginalized historically,” said Dr. Wong. “We’re talking about issues around discrimination, language access, and cultural barriers that impede the social equity we want to see in health care and clinical care.”
The conversation soon shifted to combating myths surrounding COVID-19, at which point Dr. Wong shared his thoughts on the danger that conspiracy theories surrounding the origins of the virus pose. According to Dr. Wong, uninformed speculation can be destructive and undermine important information that physicians are trying to share with the public at large.
“Certain stories have circulated about whether the virus was created by scientists or launched by certain governments,” said Dr. Wong. “It’s important to keep those messages at bay and really stick with the biology and science.”
Dr. Wong, who is also Kaiser Permanente’s director for Disparities Improvement and Quality Initiatives, later addressed the acts of discrimination directed toward Asian Americans stemming from the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. He noted that many Asian Americans are suffering psychological trauma due to recent discrimination, pointing out that at various points COVID-19 has been inappropriately characterized with names such as the “Chinese virus” or “Asian virus” in some circles.
“We need to stand up and say for the sake of civil rights and social justice that discrimination toward Asian Americans with regard to how the virus is perceived is unjust and should be protested,” said Dr. Wong. “Everyone from every part of our communities should be standing up for that.”
It’s a conversation that Dr. Wong hopes to continue by working in earnest with other national groups to ensure community needs are met during COVID-19 and beyond.
To watch the full Prioritizing Equity: The Experience of Physicians of Color and COVID-19 panel, visit the AMA’s YouTube channel.