An Interview With Impact Leader Lauren Seale, MD

We’re shining the ProjectIMPACT Spotlight on Lauren Seale, MD, an individual who is making a positive impact in healthcare by reducing racial bias in medicine. Dr. Seale is interviewed by Brittany N. Lane, a medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and a VisualDx Student Advisory Board member.

Dr. Seale
Brittany N. Lane: Please describe your job and your favorite aspects of your current position:

Dr. Seale: I am currently a PGY-4 Dermatology resident at Henry Ford Hospital Systems-Dermatology in Detroit, Michigan. As a PGY-4, I am involved with various department initiatives, including helping to develop our diversity initiatives, managing social media accounts, and working with my colleagues to organize our virtual recruitment events. My favorite aspect of my role is working with my colleagues and ancillary staff to take care of my patients.

BNL: What do you see are the biggest challenges in reducing bias in healthcare?

Dr. Seale: There are a lot of challenges when it comes to reducing bias in healthcare. To address them, you have to look at the whole foundation of medicine. You have to look at how eugenics shaped our field, and the insidious ways that medicine has upheld these biases when we are caring for patients in marginalized groups and in majority groups in the United States. Because of this, it is critical for people to understand and be aware of how it correlates with the biases that are held today in healthcare. This understanding needs to be at an institutional and individual level.

When there is a lack of diversity at the administrative level, we miss out on unique approaches to problems we need to solve or may not even be aware that these things are issues. Being complacent with the lack of diversity at an institutional level can cause opportunities to become less accessible to people from different backgrounds.

BNL: What are you currently working on that addresses healthcare equity? 

Dr. Seale: I am currently training at HFHS-Dermatology where I work with underinsured and uninsured patients. This enables me to serve people who are usually left behind by institutions and within medical care due to lack of coverage. Participating in research that makes people aware of their blind spots also assists me in working toward reducing and addressing healthcare disparities in medicine.

At a department level, I co-lead the residency program diversity committee where I am able to develop grand round talks focused on race relations, Islamophobia, anti- East and South Asian sentiment in the US, and LGBTQ and sexual and gender minority disparities in dermatology. We’ve also been able to lead grand rounds sessions focused on microaggressions with the goal of helping us to be allies for one another when those microaggressions happen.

BNL: What or who inspires you? 

Dr. Seale: Patients inspire me a great deal, because hearing that they feel they have gotten great care motivates me to continue doing this work. In addition to my patients, I look to the examples of people who have made increasing diversity in the field a priority in their careers: people like Drs.  Henry Lim, Amy McMichael, Crystal Ugochi Aguh, Susan Taylor, and Ginette Okoye. They have made it their mission to diversify dermatology, to care for patients well, and to mentor students and residents to help them move the field forward.

BNL: What advice would you give to students or fellow residents or physicians/attendings who are interested in addressing healthcare disparities? 

Dr. Seale: At every level we all need to remain curious. Don’t stop being a learner. Blind spots become more apparent as we continue to do the work that addresses our own biases and strive to make healthcare more equitable.

Students: Don’t accept the status quo. You have the power and ability to make changes at individual or institutional levels.

Residents: You make changes and you can speak up. This journey is not meant to be alone. Ask for support from your colleagues to work on this matter, as you should be at a place where you have people who can do the work with you. As an underrepresented-in-medicine student or resident, trying to do diversity work can cause you to burn out. Having as many hands working together as possible is the goal. Go to a place where they are already doing the work that you would like to do.

BNL: How do you pledge to make an impact to improve health equity? 

Dr. Seale: I pledge to make an impact by rebuilding the foundation of medicine and by decreasing and challenging perspectives that contribute to limiting healthcare access. I will also continue my work with populations that are under- and uninsured to make certain that they have access to dermatological services. I will also continue to remain humble and practice humility while keeping a soft heart as a provider.

This Project IMPACT blog series was created to highlight leaders who are making a positive impact in healthcare by reducing racial bias in medicine.

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