Evaluating the Thematic Nature of Microaggression among Racial and Ethnic Minority Surgeons

J Am Coll Surg. 2022 Aug 1;235(2):210-216. doi: 10.1097/XCS.0000000000000249. Epub 2022 Apr 28.


Background: It is well documented that surgeons who identify as racial and ethnic minorities experience discrimination while navigating the surgical environment. There is evidence to suggest that the most prevalent form of discrimination experienced is microaggressions. This study sought to identify common microaggressions experienced in the surgical workplace by racial and ethnic minority surgeons with the use of a validated scale.

Methods: A one-time, deidentified survey was administered to surgeons who identified as a racial and ethnic minority via email. The survey included demographic questions and a shortened version of the Racial Microaggressions Scale, a validated 32-item scale developed to measure microaggressions in everyday life. Subscale means were calculated and compared using sample t-tests along with an analysis of variance.

Results: A total of 185 surgeons completed the survey with 166 included in the final analysis (97 male-identifying, 67 female-identifying). Significantly different microaggression experiences between race and ethnicity were found on the environmental (p < 0.001), foreigner/not belonging (p ≤ 0.001), low achieving/undesirable (p < 0.001), criminality (p < 0.001), and invisibility (p < 0.001) subscales with higher scores denoting more frequent experiences. Black and African American surgeons scored higher than Asian and Asian American and Hispanic and Latino surgeons on the low achieving/undesirable subscale (1.7 vs 0.9 and 1.2, respectively) and the invisibility subscale (1.5 vs 0.8 and 0.8, respectively). In addition, Asian and Asian American and Hispanic and Latino surgeons scored significantly higher on the foreigner/not belonging subscale compared with Black and African American surgeons (1.6 and 1.6 vs 0.9, respectively).

Conclusions: The current study suggests that surgeons who identified as a racial and ethnic minority experience microaggressions in various ways. Understanding the specific experience of racial and ethnic minority surgeons is important as the surgical workplace strives to create more inclusive environments by acknowledging the lived experience of its diverse workforce.

MeSH terms

  • Ethnic and Racial Minorities
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microaggression
  • Minority Groups*