The April 2023 issue of SGIM Forum offers readers an e-collection of articles on biased language in our everyday work as general internal medicine physicians. Authors of articles in this issue offer reflections and introductions to some of the key issues in practice.
To open this issue, Sgro notes in his column, “That physicians’ words have such power is a function of our status compounded by the vulnerable position in which we encounter our patients. And our words can do more than wound, demoralize, or bias.” Our words can take on a sense of digital permanence also in the electronic health record: Solovieva and Rao discuss the concept of testimonial injustice or the use of language that can instill bias or disbelief in the reader through chart notes. Bass, SGIM CEO, and Gonzalez and Lypson discuss receiving a grant for a project on promoting diagnostic excellence from the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) that focuses specifically on mitigating racial disparities in diagnosis. Hicks, SGIM President, offers his parting reflections in his final SGIM Forum President’s Column. The more we can educate ourselves about best practices and the invisible influencers of our daily thought, the more we can be mindful to mitigate their impacts on how we think and act.
Regarding career advancement, three articles in this issue focus on the issue of bias in performance evaluations and letters of support. Finta, Sheffield, and Lukela call for formal training for residents on how to give feedback in ways that avoid unintended bias. Conigliaro, et al, describe their innovative program, Promotion Support for Women in Medicine, designed to build a pool of skilled letter writers to sponsor women academic faculty in their promotions—and do so while applying best practices in avoiding gender-biased language in their support letters. Sagar, et al, summarize some of the key pitfalls of biased language in letter writing and offer specific strategies for writing letters that avoid biased language.