Medical Science Educator

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 217–224 | Cite as

Challenging Medical Students to Confront their Biases: A Case Study Simulation Approach

  • Lon J. Van WinkleEmail author
  • Sophie La Salle
  • Lendell Richardson
  • Bryan C. Bjork
  • Paulette Burdick
  • Nalini Chandar
  • Jacalyn M. Green
  • Sean M. Lynch
  • Chester Robson
  • Susan M. Viselli
Original Research


We used three approaches to determine whether first-year medical students would begin to confront their biases in response to a simulated encounter with an incarcerated, African-American patient. The patient presented with fatigue in a Biochemistry course workshop. Two hundred five students watched and helped a classmate conduct a simulated interview with the patient who had been imprisoned for attempted murder. We then studied whether the students confronted their biases against the patient using (a) a survey of individual students regarding these biases, (b) one of a number of questions on a formal assignment concerning the case completed in a team format, and (c) an unprompted extra-credit opportunity to reflect as a team on issues of their choice. On the survey, eighty five percent of students confronted their biases against the patient, and they began to reflect critically about these biases. Critical reflection on teams occurred more frequently outside the formally assigned exercise (Effect Size = 0.75, crucial practical importance). Thus, most first-year medical students can be led, even in basic sciences courses, to confront their biases. In this way, they may also begin to mitigate their biases against patients. Such self-regulation of biases by health care professionals on a regular basis should help to decrease health care disparities.


Basic sciences biases critical reflection empathy health care disparities 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lon J. Van Winkle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sophie La Salle
    • 1
  • Lendell Richardson
    • 2
  • Bryan C. Bjork
    • 1
  • Paulette Burdick
    • 1
  • Nalini Chandar
    • 1
  • Jacalyn M. Green
    • 1
  • Sean M. Lynch
    • 1
  • Chester Robson
    • 1
  • Susan M. Viselli
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Chicago College of Osteopathic MedicineMidwestern UniversityDowners GroveUSA
  2. 2.College of Health SciencesMidwestern UniversityDowners GroveUSA

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