AURORA, Colo. — Emergency medicine has played a critical role during the ongoing pandemic as doctors work to provide care for some of the most critical COVID-19 patients.
"When people come in and they’re sick and they’re hurting — their most vulnerable time — it can be pretty hectic, and that’s when I like to step in," said Dr. Jacqueline Ward-Gaines, an emergency medicine physician at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.
Ward-Gaines has been with the UCHealth system for almost 15 years. She first arrived in Colorado to be closer to her husband's family.
Now, she not only provides patient care in the emergency department, she's also assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado (CU) School of Medicine and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Educational Lead at the CU Department of Emergency Medicine.
She felt a responsibility during the ongoing pandemic to do her part and address COVID-19 concerns from Black and Latinx community members.
"It’s a really sad time to see our communities hurting, and there’s so many problems with health disparities as it is," Ward-Gaines said. "One of the things that I do is I try to do encouragement. They are a little hesitant sometimes to come for the vaccine just because of what we’ve [the Black community] have experienced in health care, in general."
According to the CDC, historic events like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study have led to mistrust of the government and health care systems. Other health experts also cite the life of Henrietta Lacks as another example that has contributed to circumspection among communities of color.
"We haven’t always got it right when it comes to treating marginalized groups, but we’re trying, and this vaccine is a way. So, when you see that there’s a mass vaccination, go get it. We’re trying, and, hopefully, one day we will get better and those disparities will be diminished," said Ward-Gaines.
The physician is also working to diversify the curriculum she teaches to her students.
"I started a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Curriculum for our emergency residents. That’s on roll out and I’m excited because we’re gonna do an immersion and health equity simulation center for our residents, and we’re just really jumping on board. We’re digging into the literature and everything to try to decrease health disparities in marginalized groups, especially African Americans. I am so excited about this month," Ward-Gaines said. "Being able to put this curriculum together with the thing that I love — teaching and medicine — it just can’t be a better Black History Month for me."