Dr. Nadia Alam, the president-elect of the Ontario Medical Association, says that patients often ask for doctors based on skin color.
Alam made her observation in light of a viral video of a woman demanding to see to a "white doctor" who "doesn't have brown teeth" and "speaks English" for her child.
The incident happened at the Rapid Access to Medical Specialists clinic in Ontario, Canada, on June 18, noted CP24.com.
Alam told CBC News how commonplace this type of incident is:
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A lot of physicians who are visible minorities or have accents that suggest that they're immigrants, they face this. They face incidents like this.
I've seen it through medical school, I've seen it through residency, I've seen it on and off through my practice. Sometimes it is openly like "I'm not going to see you because you're this skin color or you have this accent. I want to see somebody else."
Alam said that she has not experienced this type of racism at her practice in Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, but did experience it in "some of the bigger cities."
"It's heartbreaking," Alam added. "You think that you're a Canadian, that this is your country, this is where you belong. And when someone accuses you that way or treats you that way, you feel like an alien."
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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne issued a statement on the viral video of the woman at the clinic: "I was very shocked. There is no place for that kind of behavior, that kind of racism and hatred, quite frankly, in our society."
Alam said dealing with such patients can be difficult: "In terms of legal guidelines and policy, if you feel unsafe, then yes, you can remove yourself from that situation. But it's a gray zone, a lot of it hasn't been fleshed out."
According to Alam, doctors may fear having a compliant filed against them -- for refusing to treat a patient -- with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and possibly losing their license.
"We need to acknowledge that this is a problem," Alam stated. "I think there's a role that medical schools can play in this along with residency programs."
Alam said her medical school never taught her how to deal with "overt racism or ignorant actions" by patients, but did teach her about hostile patients.
"This is a bigger issue," Alam added. "We need to deal with it not just as the medical community, but on a broader scale as a community in Ontario."
The Peel Regional Police were called to the clinic following the woman's rant on June 18.
Peel Regional Police spokesperson Const. Mark Fischer said an officer spoke to everyone who was involved, and the woman's child was eventually seen by a doctor at the clinic, noted CP24.com.
According to the police, no charges were filed against the woman, but the police diversity relations unit is investigating the incident.