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Gregory L. Hall, MD: Writing the Book on Health Disparities in African Americans

About this episode:

Ever since elementary school, Gregory L. Hall, MD, knew he would be a doctor. In this interview, he shares that journey and how he came to write the book—literally—on health disparities for African Americans.

His focus on disparities began more than 30 years ago with his appointment to the Ohio Commission on Minority Health—the first such commission in the country. Eventually, when he became the chairman, he had to give quarterly reports. The research he conducted on disparities for those reports opened his eyes, he says.

“I naively believed that providers and physicians didn’t contribute to health disparities. I thought it was just poverty and a lack of insurance. I didn’t know that, actually, providers contribute to it, health systems contribute to it.” He was shocked, and what he learned led to him write his book, Patient-Centered Clinical Care for African Americans: A Concise, Evidence-Based Guide to Important Differences and Better Outcomes. It is for physicians and clinicians and is a guide outlining specific differences in communication, clinical therapies, medications, protocols and other critical approaches to the care of African Americans.

The book discusses a wide range of disorders that affect African Americans It includes clinical pearls, but it also provides the background clinicians need to understand just what drives disparities.

Providers don’t want to exacerbate disparities, but they are often unaware. If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you can’t fix it, he says. He is helping with both. 

Even when providers do a better job addressing the specific needs of African-American patients, hurdles remain, he says. For example, lack of trust remains a huge issue among African-American patients; the shadow of historic discrimination in medical settings looms large. Almost half of African Americans report low trust of healthcare providers—and what’s interesting, he notes, is that this distrust extends to providers of all races. As a result, African Americans often don’t seek out the care they need, and they are wary of clinical trials.

In addition to being a practicing primary care physician in Cleveland, Dr. Hall has a dual appointment on the teaching faculty at Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Medicine as associate professor of both internal medicine and integrative medical sciences. He also has an assistant clinical professor appointment at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.