Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 761–764 | Cite as

The elephant in the room: talking race in medical education

  • Malika SharmaEmail author
  • Ayelet Kuper


The deaths of black men and women while in police custody, rising anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric in high-income countries, and the continued health disparities experienced by Indigenous communities globally have brought race and racism to the forefront of public discourse in recent years. In a context where academic health science centres are increasingly called to be “socially accountable,” ignoring the larger social context of race and racism is something that medical education institutions can little afford to do. However, many such institutions have largely remained silent on the issue of race and racism, both within and outside of healthcare. Most medical education continues to emphasize a primarily biological understanding of race. We argue that a different approach is needed. Highlighting the social construction of race is an essential starting point for educators and trainees to tackle racialized health disparities in our clinics and to challenge racism in our classrooms, educational and research institutions, and communities.


Race Racism Social responsibility Social accountability Medical education 



M. Sharma wish to thank Drs. Tina Martimianakis, Andrew Pinto, Nanky Rai, and Faraz Vahid Shahidi for their thoughtfulness and inspiration in thinking about these issues.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Maple Leaf Medical ClinicTorontoCanada
  2. 2.The Wilson CentreUniversity Health Network/University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Division of General Internal MedicineSunnybrook Health Sciences CentreTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Department of Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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