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Groups push for 'cultural competency training' for Illinois medical professionals

Advocates want more sensitivity training for medical professionals
Advocates want more sensitivity training for medical professionals 03:08

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Marginalized groups across the city are coming together to demand special training for doctors and other medical professionals in Illinois.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Monday, the training is aimed at providing greater sensitivity towards certain groups of patients. But there has been a pushback along with the push.

State House and Senate versions of a bill were introduced last month. They would require regular sensitivity training relating to caring for people with disabilities, people living with HIV, and people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities - among other groups.

But the Illinois State Medical Society considers it an "onerous and time-consuming mandate."

"It was very dehumanizing to hear that comment," said Neelam Dhadankar of Access Living.

Dhadankar was on dialysis 10 years ago when she said a doctor discouraged her from getting a kidney transplant.

"I think he also believed that: 'What's the point. You know, you are disabled. You already have a low quality of life,'" Dhadankar said.

Dhadankar says she is glad she got the transplant — on the advice of other doctors - because it allowed her eventually to earn two graduate degrees and live a productive, independent life working as a healthcare policy analyst at Access Living.

"I think it's very necessary for health care providers to become aware of their own biases," she said.

Dhadankar joined a diverse coalition of organizations to deliver 2,000 petitions to the Illinois State Medical Society - urging them to support HB 2280 and SB 2427.

The two pieces of state legislation require "consistent cultural competency training" for all healthcare professionals.

"When you don't make the effort to understand your patient, you are missing the whole point," said Kristen Perez of the Illinois Nurses Association.

Several states - including Washington, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Mexico - require cultural competence training for health professionals.

The Illinois State Medical Association declined our request for an interview.

But online, they listed the cultural competency bill as "one hundreds of onerous mandates on how physicians should practice medicine in Illinois" that they push back against every year.

"We have sought to work with, and we will continue to work, with the Illinois Medical Society to find an agreed solution," said Illinois state Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago).

Villivalam proposed the senate version of the bill. He and others who gathered hope the petitions make a difference.

"I hope that legislators and the Illinois State Medical Society bill reconsider, and keep an open mind," said Dhadankar.

We did receive a statement late Monday from the Illinois State Medical Society:

"It is critical that the focus of continuing medical education for physicians is in their area of medical specialty, to learn about the numerous changes that occur constantly in their clinical area, as a means to ensure continued quality care for their patients.

"Areas of continuing education subject matter were never intended to be directed by legislation. The more mandates in specific course areas, the more it takes the focus away from making sure healthcare professionals have the additional clinical training they need to best treat their patients.

 "The Illinois State Medical Society did not receive any petitions today, but we are always willing to hear concerns of stakeholders regarding how we can positively impact patient care and the overall public health."

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