The latest viral “Karen” video has sparked a discussion on social media well beyond the basic premise of a white woman weaponizing the color of her skin at the expense of a Black person.
While it’s true that all of that and then some were well on display when Sarah Jane Comrie was recently recorded falsely accusing a group of young Black men over a Citi Bike bikeshare rental in New York City, it was the place of employment of the Karen that prompted more questions than the Karen herself.
While Sarah Jane Comrie was busy trying to squeeze out tears that never actually materialized, crying for “help” from a threat she intentionally manufactured to falsely portray herself as a victim, her blue scrubs stood out just as much as her fake posturing.
Within hours of the video going viral over the weekend, eagle-eyed social media sleuths had not only uncovered her name but also confirmed she was employed by NYC Health + Hospitals, a fact that, for some, was just as alarming as her cruel and arguably racist actions toward the young Black men.
That unfortunate combination of a Karen working in health care prompted multiple variations of the same question: Has she been treating Black patients?
The answer to that question isn’t immediately clear.
The implication, though, definitely is.
Of course, given Sarah Jane Comrie’s clear and apparent — and knowing — bias she intentionally employed against the young Black men in an effort to criminalize them because of her own wrongdoing, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that she could lend that same approach to a patient who looks like those same young Black men.
Implicit bias in healthcare
To be sure, implicit bias in healthcare is a thing.
From Black maternal health to overall racial discrimination in health care and much more, statistics show that Black people routinely and disproportionately bear the brunt of such medical malpractice.
A report last year found that 27% of older Black and Latino adults have “experienced discrimination from health professionals, who either treated them unfairly or did not take their health concerns seriously because of their race or ethnicity.”
In a glaring example, Medical News Daily reported how a “review from 2016 noted that some physicians were significantly more likely to recommend white patients for bypass surgery than Black patients. This difference was due to the physicians’ belief that their Black patients were not as well educated and so would not take part in the necessary physical activity after surgery.”
Even medical journals have been accused of downplaying Black people’s health issues in a subtle example of medical racism and implicit bias in health care.
It’s those types of biases that particularly harm Black people.
As a physician assistant, the capacity in which Sarah Jane Comrie worked before being placed on leave pending a review, the woman dubbed “Citi Bike Karen” certainly would have had the opportunity to employ such biases while on the clock.
According to the American Academy of Physician Associates, a nonprofit advocacy group representing tens of thousands of “physician associates/physician assistants,” the group collectively known as “PAs” work as “licensed clinicians who practice medicine in every specialty and setting.” Expected to be “[t]rusted, rigorously educated and trained healthcare professionals, PAs are dedicated to expanding access to care and transforming health and wellness through patient-centered, team-based medical practice.”
Perhaps NYC Health + Hospitals and Bellevue Hospital, which placed Sarah Jane Comie on leave, will consider those harsh realities while determining her employment fate.
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