Student-Led Efforts to Advance Anti-Racist Medical Education

Acad Med. 2021 Mar 11. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004043. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Over the past decade, medical schools across the United States have increasingly dedicated resources to advancing racial and social justice, such as by supporting diversity and inclusion efforts and by incorporating social medicine into the traditional medical curricula. While these changes are promising, the academic medicine community must apply an anti-racist lens to every aspect of medical education in order to equip trainees to recognize and address structural inequities. Notably, organizing and scholarly work led by medical students has been critical in advancing anti-racist curricula. In this article, the authors illustrate how student activism has reshaped medical education by highlighting examples of student-led efforts to advance anti-racist curricula at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine. HMS students collaborated with faculty to address aspects of existing clinical practice that perpetuate racism, such as the racial correction factor in determining kidney function. They also responded to the existing curricula by noting missed opportunities to discuss structural racism, and they planned supplemental sessions to address these gaps. At UCSF, students identified specific avenues to improve the rigor of social medicine courses and developed new curricula to equip students with skills to confront and work to dismantle racism. The authors describe how HMS students, in an effort to improve the learning environment, developed a workshop to assist students in navigating microaggressions and discrimination in the clinical setting. At UCSF, students partnered with faculty and administration to advocate pass/fail grading for clerkships after university data revealed racial disparities in students' clerkship assessments. In reviewing these examples of students' advocacy to improve their own curricula and learning environments, the authors aim to provide support for students and faculty pursuing anti-racist curricular changes at their own institutions.