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Hosted by Editor in Chief Lorenzo Norris, MD, Psychcast features mental health care professionals discussing the issues that most affect psychiatry.

Aug 5, 2020

Derek M. Griffith, PhD, joints host Lorenzo Norris, MD, to discuss different ways to look at men’s health within the context of COVID-19.

Dr. Griffith is founder and director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. He also serves as professor of medicine, health, and society at the university. Neither Dr. Griffith nor Dr. Norris have disclosures.

And do not miss Renee Kohanski, MD, who offers a message of hope in the “Dr. RK” segment.

Take-home points

  • The confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the death of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, and the death of Herman Cain from COVID-19 requires us to reflect on race, gender, personal identity, and our own vulnerability.
  • Sometimes denial in the form of thinking “that won’t happen to me” is a trope within masculinity, especially black masculinity, and can lead to men delaying preventive treatments and interventions, which makes them more vulnerable to excess morbidity and mortality from preventable diseases.
  • Personal preference and agency are hallmarks of the American ethos, and those attitudes made it difficult to accept new and challenging information during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ironically, this fierce autonomy is celebrated and demonized in the male identity and will have an effect on their behavior in the environment. In terms of mental health, we must consider how schemas influence behavior, and one’s ability to take in and act on relevant information.
  • Any singular lens is limited when discussing an issue as complex as the current pandemic. Many perspectives must be examined if we are to work toward an effective solution. While society is examining COVID-19 morbidity and mortality through the lens of race, we may miss other essential perspectives, such as place, gender, age, etc.
  • In a situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we must manage complexity by asking the hard questions. Dr. Norris asked Dr. Griffith to identify what factor in the pandemic we are missing from our current perspectives. Dr. Griffith suggested that our society continues to assume that we know more about COVID-19 than we actually know. Several times throughout the pandemic, we have assumed that we have it “figured out,” only to be shown that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is more unpredictable than we realize.
  • Race, gender, age, and health disparities also will be at play when it comes time to test and administer a COVID-19 vaccine.


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Griffith DM et al. The COVID-19 elephant and the blind men of race, place, and gender. Gender & 2020 Jul 26.

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Peters JW. Will Herman Cain’s death change Republican views on the virus and masks? New York Times. 2020 Jul 30.

Cain H. This is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House. New York: Threshold Editions, 2011.

Sharma G et al. JACC Case Rep. 2020 Jul 15;2(9):1407-10.

Baker P et al. Lancet. 2020 Jun;395(10241):1886-8.

Indini A et al. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2020 Sep;153:103059.

Chowkwanyun M and Reed AL. Racial disparities and COVID-19 – Caution and context. N Engl J Med. 2020 Jul 16;383:201-3.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health equity considerations and racial and ethnic minority groups. Updated 2020 Jul 24.

Show notes by Jacqueline Posada, MD, who is associate producer of the Psychcast and consultation-liaison psychiatry fellow with the Inova Fairfax Hospital/George Washington University program in Falls Church, Va. Dr. Posada has no conflicts of interest.

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