Medical schools must consider how they should approach race in their curricula. Institutional racism in medical industries is gradually being recognized as a critical influence in health disparities, inequities, and racial bias. In a recently published paper, researchers asserted that previous medical school curricula focused on biological differences between races that led to racial health disparities, which is incongruent with today’s understanding of health disparities.
“In medical school, 20 years ago, we often learned that higher rates of hypertension in certain racial and ethnic groups, was due to genetic predisposition, personal behaviors, or unfortunate circumstances,” Jaya Aysola, MD, MPH, study lead author and assistant dean of Inclusion and Diversity in the Perelman School of Medicine, said in a statement.
“Now we know this is not true. There are no characteristics innate to racial and ethnic groups, biological or otherwise, that adequately explains these differences. They stem, instead, from differential experiences in our society — it’s structural racism, not race,” Aysola, who is also executive director at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Equity Advancement, continued. “When we speak of dismantling structural racism, we must begin with medical education, where these sorts of race-based biases are still being reinforced in the classroom.”
The research team examined over 880 lectures and found five different types of biases that could affect medical professionals: semantics, prevalence of disparities without context, race-based diagnostic bias, pathologizing race, and race-based clinical guidelines.