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Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians Denounces Race-based Medicine

Tuesday, November 12, 2019   (0 Comments)
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Media Contact:
Jami Burbidge, MAM
Director of Advocacy & Engagement

Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians Denounces Race-based Medicine

Minneapolis, November 12, 2019—The Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) adopted a resolution to denounce the practice of race-based medicine and support the development of resources to assist physicians in evaluating their use of race in research and clinical practice.

“Most of us have heard and acknowledge the truth of race as a social construct. While we may accept the truth of this science in theory, it has not changed the way we practice medicine. In fact, we often have perpetuated the myth of race and ethnicity as markers of disease. We describe our patients in racial terms and our guidelines and laboratory criteria, like glomerular filtration rate, use race. We use race as a proxy for genetics, ancestry and biology when it is not,” wrote the resolution’s authors Ebiere Okah, MD, and Andrea Westby, MD, in a recent edition of Minnesota Family Physician, the MAFP’s quarterly magazine.

The resolution was first adopted at the MAFP’s House of Delegates—its annual policy-setting meeting—in the spring of 2019. It was then brought to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in the summer and its Congress of Delegates this fall. At the national level, the resolution encountered some resistance, but mostly questions, important dialogue and a commitment to more research on this practice.

“We are not the first people to challenge the use of race in medicine. We brought our resolution [forward], because we see the negative results of medicine’s error when it comes to race. We want the MAFP and Minnesota’s family physicians to be part of this change,” said Okah.

In the latest edition of Minnesota Family Physician, Okah and Westby wrote about how race has been used in medical research, practice and clinical decision-making; why its use as a marker of disease is problematic; and how we can begin to move away from race-based medicine in our practice and research. (Read their article.)

Okah, a third-year family medicine resident at the University of Minnesota, was also awarded a $3,000 research grant in 2019 by the MAFP Foundation to study the association between a color-blind racial ideology and the use of race in medical decision-making.

“Race IS a social construct. When we treat it as a substitute for genetic ancestry, it prevents us from investigating and addressing racism, the cause of racial health disparities. Treating race as a proxy for genetics also actively harms black, brown and Indigenous communities. By treating race as biological, we place the blame of racial disparities on communities already suffering from racism and enforce the racist belief that these communities are genetically inferior. Additionally, the way we think and talk about race and racial health disparities affects how we perceive and treat patients,” wrote Westby and Okah.

In adopting this resolution, our members—family physicians across Minnesota—have said that the healthcare system is doing a disservice to the people we’re taking care of and that we can and MUST do better. MAFP members Okah and Westby have stepped up to the challenge and are leading the charge in education and research for Minnesota family physicians on eliminating the use of race-based medicine. The MAFP has also engaged our Health Equity Task Force to lead this work within our organization. We are currently creating education and resources to assist family physicians in providing the best care for ALL Minnesotans.


The Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) is the largest medical specialty organization in Minnesota, representing more than 3,100 family physicians, family medicine residents and medical students. The MAFP promotes the specialty of family medicine in Minnesota and supports family physicians as they provide high quality, comprehensive and continuous medical care for patients of all ages.


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