Tools for Discussing Identity and Privilege Among Medical Students, Trainees, and Faculty

MedEdPORTAL. 2019 Dec 20:15:10864. doi: 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.10864.


Introduction: Physicians and students of all backgrounds should be prepared to interact with patients of various socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, gender, religious, and sexual orientation identities. The approach described here emphasizes how important it is for physicians and physicians-in-training to develop self-awareness before engaging with patients.

Methods: Over the course of 6 months, we conducted workshops on identity awareness for four groups: (1) fourth-year medical students (N = 6), (2) first-year medical students (N = 88), (3) faculty and staff (N = 11), and (4) residents/fellows (N = 4). Exercises in this workshop prompted learners to reflect on the development of social and professional identities through the use of an identity wheel activity, a group reading about professional identity formation, and a hands-on activity modeling social inequity.

Results: Our analysis of responses to pre- and postsurveys indicated that learners in the first-year medical student group (N = 88) experienced increased awareness and acknowledgment of social identity, professional identity, professional relationships, and the concepts of privilege and difference following participation in this workshop.

Discussion: These exercises guide learners toward critical thinking about privilege and identity to better prepare them for culturally inclusive patient interactions. These materials can be used with physicians at various levels of training. The earlier they are used, the more time learners will have to reflect on social and professional identities before interacting with patients.

Keywords: Bias; Culturally Responsive Care; Diversity; Health Equity; Identity Awareness; Inclusion; Privilege; Social Identification; Social Identity.

MeSH terms

  • Awareness / physiology
  • Education
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Faculty / psychology*
  • Faculty / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Staff Privileges / psychology*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Professional Competence / standards
  • Race Factors / ethics
  • Religion
  • Sexual Behavior / ethics
  • Social Class
  • Social Identification
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinking / physiology