Our view: Mayo's expertise comes in many shades, from many backgrounds

Dr. Sharonne Hayes co-authored a recent paper outlining a new Mayo Clinic policy for patient bias toward clinicians and health care workers.

Physicians, medical students, scientists and medical technicians come from around the world to work and study at Mayo Clinic.

Mayo, after all, has just been named the nation's best hospital for the fourth consecutive year. If you want to be the best, you work with and at the best.

And make no mistake, the staff at Mayo Clinic is the best.

That's why we find it so disheartening that Mayo has had to institute its 5-Step Policy for Responding to Bias Incidents. The policy, which is getting renewed attention, went into effect two years ago in reaction to an increased number of incidents of patients requesting that their care team be changed based on skin color, religion or ethnicity.

Think about that: You are a patient with a serious medical condition, being treated by the best the medical profession has to offer, and you're more concerned about the skin color or country of origin of the experts taking care of you.


"I'm saddened, but it happens so frequently," Dr. Sharonne Hayes, co-author of a recent paper about the policy, told the Post-Bulletin. "Young people, Muslim people, brown people, young women, people with accents, they are all affected."

To the credit of Mayo's staff, they have never, as far as is known, just thrown up their hands and walked away. Their professional ethics don't allow that.

But if Hayes is correct, and we have no reason to doubt her, the staff also needs protection, support and an outlet. Just knowing that Mayo is talking publicly about the issue, and has put in place a policy to respond to bias incidents, has to be important to them.

No matter how much we wish there was no need for such a policy, there is no question many people in our society feel emboldened to speak out and express their fears and hatred. When patients at Mayo Clinic were being treated by a team of professionals that looked like themselves, that anxiety was held in check.

Now, though, medicine — especially as it is practiced at Mayo Clinic and other leading medical centers — is a field filled with people from diverse backgrounds. That obviously makes some patients and their families uncomfortable. That is unfortunate for them, and for what it says about our society today.

By contrast, the great majority of us welcome the skills and expertise of a medical team, and are only too happy to be treated by anyone who can help us heal — no matter their background, color or beliefs.

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