Online Program

Examining the Use of Race in Preclinical Medical Education: Student-Driven Curricular Reform

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Jennifer Tsai, BA, MS1, School of Medicine, Warren Alpert School of Medicine, Providence, RI
Nell Baldwin, BA, School of Medicine, Warren Alpert School of Medicine, Providence, RI
The critical examination of “health disparities” is gaining consideration in medical schools across the nation, often through curricula that supplements standardized education. A disconnect exists, however, between the discourse applied in these separate curricula regarding race. Specifically, lecturers consistently use race as a biological concept, framing racialized disease disparities as inherent.

In a three-month sample of second year basic science lecture slides at Alpert Medical School (AMS) in which race was discussed (n=42), race was almost always suggested as a biologically-inherent, epidemiologically or diagnostically salient factor (97%). Sixty-four percent of slides implied biologic difference and 33% taught explicit biological difference; only 3% examined social differences to explain health disparities. In addition, we surveyed students and found 76% of AMS students felt unprepared to address racialized health disparities. Eighty-nine percent supported curricular reform to address these issues.

As students, we were concerned that employment of race without context perpetuates bias among aspiring physicians and ultimately contributes to worse outcomes in patients of color, thereby constituting an issue of social justice. We approached the administration with a letter problematizing the current use of race, highlighting the need to examine how race is taught. The AMS administration was receptive to student proposals for further analysis of race in medical education. A taskforce was created to examine curricular reform around race. In this poster, we present a methodological discussion of our collaboration with the administration as a model for how curricular reform regarding racialized health disparities can be enacted.

Learning Areas:

Basic medical science applied in public health
Clinical medicine applied in public health

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the use of race and racialized health disparities in preclinical basic science U.S. medical education. Describe one student-driven model for enacting curricular reform around use of race at a US medical school.

Keyword(s): Curricula, Minority Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a medical student at Warren Alpert Medical School.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.