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Experiencing Racial Bias During Medical Training

In a recent JAMA Viewpoint article, "Making All Lives Matter in Medicine From the Inside Out," Michael O. Mensah, a current resident at the University of California, Los Angeles, reveals a brief narrative of an “all-to-familiar” experience where during his medical student years at the University of California, San Francisco he was subjected to situations that involved racial bias. He invokes sentiments that some minority trainees may feel when thrust into situations where they are expected to be spokespeople for their race. Mensah’s essay compelled me to reflect on my time as a medical student on the wards, how I felt when race matters were discussed and what support or lack thereof existed to navigate these situations. The essay goes on to discuss the literature regarding racial bias in healthcare and the barriers for confronting it.

A significant portion of this short article highlights a study that tested the Black White Implicit Aptitude Test in faculty and medical students at a midwestern medical school and found strong and moderate implicit white preference amongst faculty and students despite self-perception of no racial basis in both groups. In addition, he highlights another study demonstrating that implicit racial bias was associated with patient care decisions regarding pain management made by medical students and residents in mock scenarios. Mensah concludes with the point that ideas only are insufficient and need to be operationalized into interventions. He proposes three solutions to identify and address racial prejudice in medical training:

  • Assess student evaluations for racial bias
  • Add evidence-based methods of reducing implicit bias to resident and faculty development curricula
  • Support (financially & administratively) students, residents and faculty that are engaged in activities that reveal, study and combat racial bias

Read the article here:

-Thomas K.M. Cudjoe, fellow in Geriatrics


Kelsey Bennett