Doctors urged to act on racism and sexism

Dr Jillann Farmer has urged rural Queensland colleagues to call out racism and sexism at work. Photo supplied by Rural Doctors Association of Queensland.

by Stephanie Gardiner, AAP Orange

Rural doctors have been urged to consider their privilege a superpower, and call out racism and sexism in their workplaces.

Dr Jillann Farmer, a Rockhampton-raised GP who served as the United Nation’s medical director, said the word “privilege” can often carry negative connotations, but it should be used for good.

“It is important that those of us who have privilege, who hold that superpower in our hands, speak up and advocate for people,” Dr Farmer told the Rural Doctors’ Association of Queensland conference in Gladstone on Thursday night.

“We (need to) make sure people who wield privilege as a tool of oppression don’t get the light of day.

“If enough of us stand up to it, then privilege will be used in the right way.”

Dr Farmer practises in suburban Brisbane, after overseeing the standards of the UN’s healthcare facilities around the world from 2012 until 2020.

She said she calls out racism and sexism to model better behaviour in the community.

“When patients are stereotyping our colleagues because of their race, when they refuse to see somebody because of their race, that’s another opportunity for us to exercise privilege.”

Dr Farmer encouraged women to pursue leadership positions in medicine to ultimately benefit female patients.

“Speak up. It can be challenging and there will be situations where you speak up and it’s like you said nothing, or you speak up and someone will interrupt and speak over you,” she said.

“Don’t allow yourself to be cut off, continue to speak and hold the territory. 

“Gender and gender imbalance in leadership has an impact on the gender sensitivity of health care.”

Rural doctors will discuss gaps in the workforce, medical advances, and pandemic recovery at the conference which runs until Saturday.