Medical Schools as Racialized Organizations: A Primer

Link to article at PubMed

Ann Intern Med. 2021 Jun 1. doi: 10.7326/M21-0369. Online ahead of print.


The year 2020 saw the largest social movement in response to the police killings of Black people and anti-Black racism in U.S. history. As a result, medical schools and professional societies such as the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges are reckoning with their role in perpetuating racial inequality and the impact of structural racism on medical training. Whether these efforts will translate into meaningful change has yet to be determined. Success depends on a deep understanding of the fundamental role racism plays in how medical schools function and an acknowledgment that current organizational structures and processes often serve to entrench, not dismantle, racial inequities. Drawing on racialized organizations theory from the field of sociology, this article gives an overview of scholarship on race and racism in medical training to demonstrate how seemingly race-neutral processes and structures within medical education, in conjunction with individuals' biases and interpersonal discrimination, serve to reproduce and sustain racial inequality. From entrance into medical school through the residency application process, organizational factors such as reliance on standardized tests to predict future success, a hostile learning climate, and racially biased performance metrics ultimately stunt the careers of trainees of color, particularly those from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine (URM). These compounding disadvantages contribute to URM trainees' lower matching odds, steering into less competitive and lucrative specialties, and burnout and attrition from academic careers. In their commitment against structural racism in medical training and academic medicine, medical schools and larger organizations like the Association of American Medical Colleges should prioritize interventions targeted at these structural barriers to achieve equity.

PMID:34058105 | DOI:10.7326/M21-0369

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