Effects of a Curriculum Addressing Racism on Pediatric Residents' Racial Biases and Empathy

J Grad Med Educ. 2022 Aug;14(4):407-413. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-21-01048.1.


Background: Racism is a longstanding driver of health inequities. Although medical education is a potential solution to address racism in health care, best practices remain unknown.

Objective: We sought to evaluate the impact of participation in a curriculum addressing racism on pediatric residents' racial biases and empathy.

Methods: A pre-post survey study was conducted in 2 urban, university-based, midsized pediatric residency programs between July 2019 and June 2020. The curriculum sessions included Self-Reflection on Implicit Bias, Historical Trauma, and Structural Racism. All sessions were paired with empathy and perspective-taking exercises and were conducted in small groups to facilitate reflective discussion. Wilcoxon signed rank tests were used to assess changes in racial bias and empathy. Linear regression was used to assess the effect of resident characteristics on racial bias and empathy.

Results: Ninety of 111 residents receiving the curriculum completed pre-surveys (81.1%), and among those, 65 completed post-surveys (72.2%). Among participants with baseline pro-White bias, there was a statistically significant shift (0.46 to 0.36, P=.02) toward no preference. Among participants with a baseline pro-Black bias, there was a statistically significant shift (-0.38 to -0.21, P=.02), toward no preference. Among participants with baseline pro-White explicit bias, there was a statistically significant shift (0.54 to 0.30, P<.001) toward no preference. Among all residents, there was a modest but statistically significant decrease in mean empathy (22.95 to 22.42, P=.03).

Conclusions: Participation in a longitudinal discussion-based curriculum addressing racism modestly reduced pediatric residents' racial preferences with minimal effects on empathy scales.

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Child
  • Curriculum
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Racism* / prevention & control

Grant support

Funding: All phases of this study were supported by HRSA T0BHP28574 and NIH T32 HD094687, as well the Academic Pediatric Association's Young Investigator Award.