Somnath Saha, MD, MPH
Associate Professor of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University
Portland VA Medical Center

Racial Disparities and the Patient-Physician Relationship

January 26
12:00 - 1:30 PM
Colonial Penn Center Auditorium


Somnath Saha is Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Health & Preventive Medicine, and Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and is a staff physician at the Portland VA Medical Center. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Stanford University and received his medical degree and post-graduate training in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He was a fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Washington, where he obtained a masters degree in public health.

Dr. Saha's research focuses on the influence of race and ethnicity in the patient-physician relationship, and its relation to racial disparities in the quality of health care. His current work employs the principles of community-based participatory research and involves both quantitative and qualitative research methods. He is a member of the Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center, where he has conducted technology assessments and syntheses of evidence on cost-effectiveness. He serves on the Oregon Health Services Commission, a group charged with prioritizing health services to enable the creation of a rational and cost-effective benefits package for Medicaid beneficiaries. He also serves on the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program.

The quality and quantity of health care delivered in the U.S. are generally lower for racial and ethnic minority populations than for the white majority. Many of these disparities are not explained by patients' ability to pay for care, or other socioeconomic factors. Racial and cultural barriers between minority patients and their predominantly non-minority physicians are often invoked as important contributors to racial disparities. In response, health professional organizations have sponsored, recommended, and mandated training in "cultural competence," i.e., the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to effectively care for diverse patient populations. There is scant evidence, however, to guide these training programs, which consequently vary widely in content and format. In this presentation, I will review an agenda of completed, ongoing, and future research that aims to understand the influence of race in patient-physician relationships and the role of that influence in explaining racial disparities in health care. The goal of this research is to develop an evidence base upon which to build effective programs to reduce the impact of race on quality of care.

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