Joshua Rogers / by Michael Falco

Who is Joshua Rogers?

Joshua Rogers is an emergency medicine doctor living in Richmond. He was born in South Dakota and his family lived in Charlottesville before settling in Richmond when he was a child. He grew up in Richmond and attended the University of Virginia. Joshua went to medical school in Vermont, completed his residency in Baltimore, and finally settled in Richmond again in the same neighborhood where he grew up (where his brother and mother also live). He was raised religiously, but does not practice now. He has a grandmother who is Colombian, but his family and close friends are mostly white. 

Excerpt from interview with Joshua Rogers by Whitney Dow, 2017

Q: And can you tell me a little about the patients that you see in the hospital? I don’t know if you’re in a local hospital in Richmond or you’re outside of Richmond. What’s the makeup of your patients? And does race fit in at all in your medical practice? How does it play out in your medical practice?

Rogers: [18:13:18] So, as far as medical practice, yes, I’m in the city, not downtown but in kind of one of the larger community hospitals. It’s still in the city. And it’s the busiest ER [emergency room] in the city and the second-busiest in the state. So it’s a busy place. So our patient population is really pretty diverse. It’s like the big heart hospital, so you get everybody. But since it is the heart hospital you’ll get the high-powered executive who’s having a heart attack or has heart problems will come to Chippenham [Hospital, Richmond, Virginia] just as the person down the street living in subsidized housing is going to come to Chippenham for the heart problem. So, we see a pretty diverse patient population. I would say the majority of our patients are probably in the lower socioeconomic class. I’d say kind of like working poor to middle-class. And that’s largely A, where we’re located, and B, the fact that people who have higher-paying jobs or corporate jobs tend to have better insurance and have access to primary care physicians. So they don’t frequent the ERs quite as often.

As far as does race play a role, I wouldn’t say it plays a huge role. Certainly, there’s plenty of evidence in the literature, medical literature, about race and kind of how people are cared for. And there’s very clearly disparities between white and black care. And that’s not just based on where they’re being treated. It’s in the same hospital, same problems, getting different treatments. So, for me personally, I really try to be cognizant of that because I know I have subconscious biases. They exist. And I have to recognize that. And so I really make a concerted effort to try to address that in my head before making any kind of final decisions, like, just thinking if this person weren’t black or this person weren’t Hispanic or whatever, would I be making the same decision? Or if this person had a primary care doctor or didn’t have a primary care doctor, what would I be doing differently? And so, I really make a conscious effort to try to incorporate that. So I try to at least address the fact that I’m sure I do have some subconscious biases and to try to make sure that I’m not kind of making that problem worse.

Q: Can you give me an example or tell me a story about any time that you sort of applied that and it changed the trajectory of how you were caring for someone?

Rogers: [18:16:38] Yes. I mean, I think, so we see a fairly large Hispanic population. And we get a fair amount of young Hispanic women. We get a lot of young women in general who are complaining of abdominal pain and can be kind of off-the-walls. And it’s like you’re just trying to figure out what’s going on. And it’s difficult because it’s hard to sometimes get people just to calm down and be able to talk to you. And I feel like I think at this point I’d seen, I think, probably three or four other young Hispanic females who came in really uncomfortable- appearing, kind of almost climbing the walls. And you get them settled down and can’t find anything wrong. And they feel better after really not much of anything is done. And you’re like, what’s going on?

And so, by the time it was towards the end of my shift, it was just like another one came in. I’m like, what is going on? I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with this girl. And it was one of those times where I was tired. It was the end of my shift. And I was like I just want to get out of here and be done. And I want to go in and just discharge her. But she was still complaining of pain, which was not kind of how the day had gone. Everyone else had gotten better. And I was like, all right, I’ve got to stop and regroup and just kind of start over. And I speak some Spanish, but I hadn’t used the language line with her. So I went and got the language line and just kind of sat down and just said we’re starting over, and kind of got the whole story again. It turns out she had appendicitis and did fine. But it was kind of one of those things where I was like, I was ready just to send her home.

And it was kind of one of those things where I was like this is the fourth or fifth young Hispanic woman that’s come in screaming her head off. And the last four have had zilch wrong. And this is just another case of that. And so, yes, I mean, I would say that’s one that I distinctly remember. And so, I try to keep that in the back of my head, like you’ve got to stop and regroup, and what if this was your sister? What would you do then, or your mother or your father or your brother? And try to start over.

Interview Transcript