Challenge of the week: Stereotypes

In Medicine, like many other jobs, we tend to subconsciously stereotype. We rely heavily on pattern recognition for diagnosis, and being a certain age/ sex/ gender is part of that pattern. For example abdominal (tummy) swelling in a 20-30 year old woman has different likely diagnoses that the same swelling in a 70 year old man.

However I was recently challenged about my subconscious stereotypes. I was visiting a HIV clinic in the heart of Soho. When the first patient arrived I found myself surprised- they weren’t the patient I had expected. In fact none of them were.

I saw high flying city workers, happily married couples, internationally renowned performers, hard working shopkeepers and smiling children from all over the world, including many different parts of the U.K.

I’m not quite sure what patient I expected to walk through the door, but meeting this range of patients really challenged my stereotypes. I hadn’t realised exactly how much the media and stigma of society had coloured my way of thinking.

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