“Is there a doctor in the house?” Most of us have heard this phrase before. Reportedly, it originated in the early 1900s during theater performances when a doctor’s presence was needed to take care of an ill or injured patron attending the show. Since then, it has become common day vernacular. Simply, it means, is there a physician available emergently to assist in the care of a person in need. Well, as health disparities continue to threaten the lives well-being of entire communities, I have a new question, IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOOD???
Hood is a term which suggests an impoverished community with suboptimal living conditions mostly populated with individuals from underrepresented ethnicities. Health care disparities are amplified in such settings and have been attributed to a variety of etiologies such as poor dietary habits/options, unsanitary living conditions, and limited access to health care. All of these problems must be addressed, but as physicians, our imminent focus should be access to healthcare.
Under the radar, many hospitals and healthcare centers are moving out of poor metropolitan areas. Since the 1970s, the number of hospitals in 52 of America’s largest metropolitan areas has declined 46% [Sager 2013]. In the boroughs of New York City, over 20 hospitals have been closed since the 1990s. Money talks, and sadly there is little money to be made in these poor areas, therefore hospitals (which are businesses) take their business elsewhere. Unfortunately, when they do that, they decrease access to healthcare for specific patient populations.
Marcus Welby MD was a very popular TV show in the late 1960s to 1970s. It was about a “Do it All” physician named Dr. Welby, who made house calls. Decades later, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman would air on television with a similar premise. Both shows highlighted many characteristics of exemplary physicians, but the one characteristic that has always stood out to me was their sense of responsibility to a specific community. Nowadays, it seems rare to see an individual who carries the health burden of a community on his or her shoulders. This is true for many communities, but today I ask “IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOOD??”
As oppose to Marcus Welby MD, consider this for a TV series… “Dr. Jones, The Hood’s MD”. The star would be a 38 year old minority man (or woman, but for the sake of writing I will use the masculine form). Dr. Jon Jones was raised in the 5th Ward of Houston, Texas. As a child he was a “knucklehead” and got into all sorts of trouble. In fact, he was spent a short period of time in a juvenile detention center. After he was released from “juvie” something happened…a young doctor recognized the potential of young Jon and took him under his wings. With this mentorship, Jon focused his energy on his education and on making a positive impact in the world. Jon would grow up to become Dr. Jones MD, and remembering where he came from, build his own clinic (not a government owned community health center) in the hood where he was raised. Furthermore, Dr. Jones would make house calls to see the elderly and sick patients who could not make it to his clinic. In my opinion, that would be a phenomenal TV premise and an even more phenomenal real life premise.
My hope is simple, that one way or another, we can get more “Hood Doctors”. Perhaps the government should offer more perks and incentives to make this happen, or perhaps those of us who see the need should find a way to make it happen on our own. We need a movement…”Hood Doctors providing Hood Healthcare”. Until this happens, it’ll be more of the same and the disparities will continue to increase.