Dr. Derek West

Dr. Derek West

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Derek West is a board-certified interventional radiologist, and an associate professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Science at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.  With a father as a physician and a mother as a nurse, West seemed destined to follow in some field of medicine but chose engineering as an undergrad major instead.  It wasn’t until his impressive scores on the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) that he went from being an average student to one who made his parents proud and is now having an impact on one of many disparities, especially those adversely affecting women of color.    

His research has focused on the use of electroporation with chemotherapy, nanoparticle delivery in the treatment of pancreatic adeno carcinoma, and in radio genomic oncologic imaging research and its effects on interventional oncology decision making.  West’s research and practice is grounded in diversity and inclusion.

In a press release provided by Radiology Health Equity Coalition (Nov. 22, 2021), it was announced that eight major radiology organizations will be collaborating in the formation of a coalition to positively influence healthcare equity in the radiology and imaging arena and beyond.  Many physicians of color have long argued that BIPOC communities have become desensitized to huge gaps in health care and training in the field.  It wasn’t until the globally televised execution of George Floyd and the COVID19 pandemic that disparaging statistics were magnified due to obvious barriers of health care including the lack of health insurance, unbiased treatments, and quality customer service and care.

The coalition is vital to addressing the unsettling diagnosis and imaging utilization statistics, such as: excessive/potentially preventable deaths from cancer, lower respiratory disease and other illnesses in rural areas are often nearly double that of urban areas; black women are 42% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women; black men are 52% more likely to die from colorectal cancer (CRC) than white men.  (The 19% CRC disparity may be due to few screenings for black men); black Americans with diabetes are three times more likely to have a limb amputated than others; and U.S. Latinos are more likely to die from CRC than those in many Central and South American nations. The CRC death rate for U.S. Latinos has dropped more slowly than for whites.

Asian Americans are twice as likely to die from stomach cancers, eight times more likely to die from hepatitis, and have a tuberculosis rate more than 30 times higher than white Americans. 39% of U.S. women without health insurance had a mammogram in the past two years vs. 75% of those with health insurance.  Can I reiterate ‘unsettling’ statistics requiring immediate attention; an education needed to save the next generation and yet improve the quality of life for chocolate baby boomers of all hues and ethnicities?  As my editor-in-chief and the host of ‘Conversations with Al McFarlane’ always says, “Our Health Should Be ‘Our Business’”.  

The coalition is convened by the American College of Radiology and currently includes the American Board of Radiology; the  Radiology Section Council of the American Medical Association; the Association of University Radiologists; Section on Radiology and Radiation Oncology for the National Medical Association; Radiological Society of North America; Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments; and Society of International Radiology with other specialty and state radiology organizations already joining the initiative.

The network of patient-focused radiology societies will collect, assess, and disseminate resources and best practices, advocate for and connect with patients and community members, and collaborate on programs and services to improve access to and utilization of preventive and diagnostic imaging.  Because medical imaging touches most patients at some point, radiologists are uniquely positioned to begin closing the BIPOC disparity gap in healthcare.  Radiologists’ consultative roles across the care process, and particularly in medical education, creates an opportunity to drive systemic change to achieve consistent, high-quality, and equitable care for all ages and diverse backgrounds..

“The members of the Radiology Health Equity Coalition are committed to addressing health disparities and improving health outcomes for the underserved,” said Jacqueline A. Bello, MD, FACR, Chair of the RHEC, and Vice-Chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors.  Our collaborative framework empowers radiologists to join this effort.”

Who would have thought that possibly having an accurate mammogram would depend on where my physician’s office was located, how much training the imaging technician has, or whether they have biases that would cause them to cause the patient unnecessary pain?  How many people of color are being trained for careers radiology and imaging, a critical procedure most humans and often animals will need one day, possibly to save a life? 

Right after giving birth to her daughter, phenomenal tennis star, Serena Williams began to experience a shortness of breath.  As one of the most celebrated athletes in the world, she knew there was something wrong with her body after an emergency cesarean section had to be performed.  She underwent multiple operations after sustaining a pulmonary embolism.  Doctors eventually spotted several small blood clots in her lungs with a CT scan and put her on a blood thinner.  So, what happens if one does not have the access of this kind of quality health care?   Dr. West and coalition members are working hard to make that scenario change and to assist in providing community outreach and advocacy and equal resources and accessibility to the historically disenfranchised.  It is indeed time!

For further information:

E-mail:  www.info@radhealthequity.org

Committing to the Cause:  www.radhealthequity.org

Personal Contact:  To speak with a coalition spokesperson, e-mail at www.PR@act.org or call Kevin Walter at (202) 420-0153

Information Source:  PR Newswire, A. Cision Company, New York

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