A Problem with Many Roots There are many reasons for minority health disparities. “Historically, it’s been lack of access,” notes Modlin. “If someone is uninsured or underinsured, it’s hard for them to get routine care.” That said, even when minorities do have access, they can still suffer from disparities, especially when doctors are not aware of their specific needs. Take prostate cancer, which Modlin routinely treats as a urologist. “A lot of health care providers don’t know that African Americans need to start screening for prostate cancer at age 40, as compared to age 55 for white men.” The delay in screening African Americans is part of the reason they’re more likely to die from the disease. A lack of diversity among the ranks of physicians is another factor. “Many people feel more comfortable being treated by an individual who looks like them and has a similar background,” says Modlin. Only four percent of physicians in the U.S. are African American and Modlin himself is one of just a comparative handful of African-American transplant surgeons in the country. Meanwhile, for African Americans in particular, there’s ongoing distrust of the medical community, thanks to a legacy of mistreatment that most infamously includes the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which for more than 40 years African- American males were not treated for syphilis so that researchers could study the “natural progression” of the disease. “It’s difficult to get minority patients to agree to participate in clinical research trials because of the distrust,” says Modlin. He encourages his own patients to donate to the Health Center’s biobank to help facilitate research on minority patients. “We give samples to any investigator worldwide who wants to research the pathogenic cause of health disparities,” he says. 32 SHAKERONLINE.COM | WINTER 2017 Photo courtesy of Willie McAllister The Minority Men’s Health Fair is held annually at the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.
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