Share this article on:

Commentary: Profiling by Appearance and Assumption: Beyond Race and Ethnicity

Sapién, Robert E. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181d7d57f

In this issue, Acquaviva and Mintz highlight issues regarding racial profiling in medicine and how it is perpetuated through medical education: Physicians are taught to make subjective determinations of race and/or ethnicity in case presentations, and such assumptions may affect patient care. The author of this commentary believes that the discussion should be broadened to include profiling on the basis of general appearance. The author reports personal experiences as someone who has profiled and been profiled by appearance—sometimes by skin color, sometimes by other physical attributes. In the two cases detailed here, patient care could have been affected had the author not become aware of his practices in such situations. The author advocates raising awareness of profiling in the broader sense through training.

Dr. Sapién is professor, Department of Emergency Medicine and Department of Pediatrics, chief, Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, medical director, EMS for Children, and associate director, Combined BA/MD Degree Program, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Sapién, Department of Emergency Medicine, MSC10-5560, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131; telephone: (505) 272-5062; fax: (505) 272-6503; e-mail:

Editor's Note: This is a commentary on Acquaviva KD, Mintz M. Are we teaching racial profiling? The dangers of subjective determinations of race and ethnicity in case presentations. Acad Med. 2010;85:702–705.

© 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges