The elephant in the room: talking race in medical education

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2017 Aug;22(3):761-764. doi: 10.1007/s10459-016-9732-3. Epub 2016 Nov 5.


The deaths of black men and women while in police custody, rising anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric in high-income countries, and the continued health disparities experienced by Indigenous communities globally have brought race and racism to the forefront of public discourse in recent years. In a context where academic health science centres are increasingly called to be "socially accountable," ignoring the larger social context of race and racism is something that medical education institutions can little afford to do. However, many such institutions have largely remained silent on the issue of race and racism, both within and outside of healthcare. Most medical education continues to emphasize a primarily biological understanding of race. We argue that a different approach is needed. Highlighting the social construction of race is an essential starting point for educators and trainees to tackle racialized health disparities in our clinics and to challenge racism in our classrooms, educational and research institutions, and communities.

Keywords: Medical education; Race; Racism; Social accountability; Social responsibility.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Racism*
  • Social Justice
  • Social Responsibility
  • United States