Dr. Paul Haidet was the presenter of a thought-provoking interactive audience exchange on unconscious bias; the social stereotypes that we may hold about certain groups of people that we may not be aware of, at the second event of the Hershey Area All Things Diversity series.

Haidet is a general internist and serves as Professor of Medicine, Humanities, and Public Health Sciences at the Penn State University College of Medicine. He has published widely on a variety of topics related to teaching, communication, and the humanistic care of patients, and his work has won numerous regional, national, and international awards.

He works directly with medical students and medical residents to help them to understand unconscious bias and to provide them with methods to provide unbiased care to patients.

During the session, Dr. Haidet shared a poem, How To Tell The Truth.

When you just have to talk, try being silent.

When you feel reluctant to say anything, make the effort to put what you’re feeling into words.

This is a place to begin.

Pushing gently against the current of your own impulses is an effective technique for dislodging and discovering your truth.

How to tell the truth?

Taste it and remember the taste in your heart.

Risk it from the bottom of your love.

Take the risk of telling the truth about what you’re feeling.

Take the risk of telling your loved on your secrets.

It’s true you might be misunderstood.

Look and see if you’re willing to trust yourselves to misunderstand each other and go on from there.

When someone speaks to you and you feel yourself not wanting to hear it try letting it in. You don’t have to agree that they’re right.

Just take the risk of listening as if they could possibly be speaking some truth- and see what happens.

Listen as if.  Listen as if you can’t always tell what the truth is. Listen as if you might be wrong, especially when you know you’re right. Listen as if you were willing to take the risk of growing beyond your righteousness. Listen as if love mattered.

Paul Williams, from “Nation of Lawyers”

A video was shown on the story of Robert Phillips, an African American man who was receiving kidney dialysis and awaiting a transplant and his struggles because he believed that he was less likely to receive a transplant than a Caucasian patient.

Haidet said, “The key for doctor patient communication is all about trust. He facilitated two exercises with the audience. In the first, he provided four options from which the audience could choose as Robert Phillips’ physician to build his trust.

During the second exercise he asked the audience to consider a time when a bias was overcome, and they made a decision different from their bias. Discussion ensued on the audience’s experiences and on why they were able to push their bias aside. “We struggle with our biases and feel guilty,” said Haidet.

“Start alone with creative strategies to acknowledge your biases. It is powerful to do as a community,” he added. Dr. Haidet explained that we reflect on an action and see the result after the fact. He said, “If you do it enough, you will start to do it while it happens and be adaptive.

He provided five tips to prevent biases by Dr. Mazahri Banaji, Harvard University:

  • Acknowledge the potential for your life experience to bias your assumptions
  • Be wary of first impressions
  • Learn about stereotypes and more importantly, really get to know people as people-Honest Inquiry
  • Broaden your focus (dig deeper)
  • Expose yourself to new experiences with unexpected people
  • Einstein Bonus Tip: Learn the history of systematic inequities, oppression, enactments or power, privilege.

Dr. Haidet shared a situation in which he identified his own biases and he realized that he could feel his bias. “When I had that feeling, I said, take a time out,” he explained. “Pay attention and spot your bias.”

He provided Paul’s Steps to Reduce Bias in Everyday Decisions to the audience.

STEP 0:         Acknowledge that bias exists and influences decisions
STEP 1:         Understand and OWN your own biases
STEP 2:         Strategize methods (beforehand) to deal with bias when it occurs
STEP 3:         Develop situational awareness of times your bias activates.
STEP 4:         Call a critical TIME OUT when you feel your bias activating
STEP 5:         Select a strategy (from those brainstormed in step 2) and employ
STEP 6:         Monitor the decision you made and compare with situation where bias was not there (i.e., if the person were white, straight, male, <insert religion>, liberal/conservative, etc.)

The Hershey Area All Things Diversity educational sessions are organized by Derry Township, Downtown Hershey Association, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, The Hershey Company, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, and Derry Township School District. Dr. Ali Michael will present “Addressing Micro-Inequities and Micro-Aggressions” on January 23, 5:30 to 7:15, at the Hershey Story Museum.

Visit http://www.derrytownship.org/community/hersheyallthingsdiversity and the Hershey Area All Things Diversity Facebook page,  for more information and announcements.