[PODCAST] Health Disparities and Parkinson’s: Structural Racism and Oppression

female doctor with patient and family

Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the myriad ways that structural racism and oppression affect healthcare and health outcomes, including well-being and quality of life. These same systemic issues plague the Parkinson’s community and result in care inequities and disparities that disproportionately affect people of color, women, people with limited English proficiency, and more.

In this episode

Our panelists discuss how these systems of racism and oppression affect our community, and how we can take these learnings and create the change needed to ensure all people can live well with Parkinson’s.

To download the transcript, click here.
Note: This is not a flawless word-for-word transcript, but it’s close.

Show Notes

  • It is important to ask others what they consider their race and ethnicity to be, as their unique experiences contribute to their identity and may not be apparent from the outside. For the same reason, there’s a need for more opportunities in data collection for self-reported­ race and ethnicity
  • When we speak of health disparities, we are talking about the differences in the level of healthcare received based on population characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and more
  • Patients with language barriers or LEP (limited English proficiency) are much more likely to experience a decreased quality of care, more adverse events, medical errors, and to suffer physical harm than patients without language barriers
  • The importance of building trust, particularly in immigrant communities and communities of color, is an important consideration when working to decrease healthcare inequities. When attempting to build trust, it’s important to look to the past to consider why and where distrust may exist and to diversify your workforce so that you are representing the community you serve
  • Data indicates that people of color are much less likely to receive specialty care as opposed to the care of a general practitioner. This speaks to inequities in specialty healthcare access and referral. Some facilities have begun to include specialists such as neurologists in community healthcare centers, which may be a good first step in decreasing these disparities
  • Equitable quality of care is particularly important in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s, as the diagnosis comes not from a simple blood test but from a comprehensive review of multiple symptoms and considerations


meet the panelists

In her role as Director at the Disparities Solutions Center, Ms. Tan-McGrory leads the Center’s portfolio of projects focused on addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Ms. Tan-McGrory also travels across the country to speak to organizations about how race, ethnicity, and language impact the quality of care. Ms. Tan-McGrory serves on several executive committees, including the MGH Diversity Committee, and the Mass General Brigham Health Equity and Quality Committee. In addition, Ms. Tan-McGrory sits on the board of the Massachusetts Public Health Association and is Adjunct Faculty at Northeastern University. Ms. Tan-McGrory currently serves on the MA Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Quality Measurement Alignment Taskforce.d

Nicte Mejia, MD, MPH, FAAN

Born in Guatemala and raised in Mexico, Dr. Mejia graduated medical school with honors from the Monterrey Institute of Technology. After conducting clinical research in movement disorders at Baylor College of Medicine, she trained at MGH/BWH/Harvard, completing a Medicine internship, Neurology residency, Movement Disorders fellowship, Master degree of Public Health, postdoctoral fellowships in Neurostatistics & Neuroepidemiology and Mental Health Policy, and the Physician Leadership Development Certificate Program. Dr. Mejia also graduated the Disparities Solutions Center Disparities Leadership Program, YW Boston LeadBoston Executive Leadership Program, Partnership BioDiversity Fellowship Program, and American Academy of Neurology Diversity Leadership Program.

Dr. Mejia works to advance equity through patient care, research, education, and administration. She leads the MGH Neurology Community Health Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, directs the MGH Youth Neurology Education and Research Program, is editor of the Neurology journal specialty site on equity, diversity, and inclusion, and serves as member of the Board of Directors of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. Her work has been recognized with the HMS Harold Amos Faculty Diversity, Boston YMCA Achievers, Dominican Medical College New England & Hispanic Health Professionals Association Outstanding Healthcare Professional, MGH Service Excellence Leadership Honorable Mention, MGH Ernesto Gonzalez, HMS Scholars in Medicine Excellence in Student Mentoring, and the AAN AB Baker Teacher Recognition awards.


Eden Mussie

An equity advocate committed to holistic approaches to health, Eden Mussie is passionate about improving health outcomes for marginalized communities. Eden currently works as a Health Equity Program Manager at Blue Shield of California focused on building a shared understanding of health equity principles across the organization through tools, terminology, trainings, and assessments. She holds a BA in Psychology from Carleton College and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas, where she received a certificate in Transformational Change and Organizational Development.

Prior to her current role, Eden worked on advancing health equity through grantmaking at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation and was a The Victory Summit® event intern at the Davis Phinney Foundation. She has also consulted on various projects focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This work has included organization development consulting with the University of St. Thomas focused on making higher education more equitable and strategy consulting with Imagine Deliver, a B Corporation focused on developing solutions for the new majority by centering the most marginalized end user and co-designing alongside them.

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*The Third Season of the Parkinson’s Podcast is made possible through generous support in honor of Dr. Margaret Hilgartner.

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