Toward a Bias-Free and Inclusive Medical Curriculum: Development and Implementation of Student-Initiated Guidelines and Monitoring Mechanisms at One Institution

Acad Med. 2020 Sep 1. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003701. Online ahead of print.


As research and attention on implicit bias and inclusiveness in medical school is expanding, institutions need mechanisms for recognizing, reporting, and addressing instances of implicit bias and lack of inclusiveness in medical school curricular structures. These instances can come as a result of a lack of both awareness and communication around these sensitive issues. To identify and address cases of implicit bias in the medical school curriculum, a student-led initiative at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) developed guidelines and a bias-reporting process for educators and students. The guidelines, co-created by students and faculty, help educators identify and address implicit bias in the curriculum. Furthermore, to allow for continued development of the curriculum and the guidelines themselves, the group adapted an existing learning environment reporting and review process to identify and address instances of implicit bias. In the first year since their implementation, these tools have already had an impact on the learning climate at VP&S. They have led to enhanced identification of implicit bias in the curriculum and changes in instructional materials. The courage and inspiration of the students and the initial investment and commitment from the administration and faculty were crucial to this rapid effect. The authors present an approach and resources from which other institutions can learn, with the goal of reducing implicit bias and improving inclusiveness throughout medical education. In the long run, the authors hope that these interventions will contribute to better preparing future providers to care for all patients equitably.