The elephant in the room: talking race in medical education


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.

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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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Correspondence to Malika Sharma.

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Sharma, M., Kuper, A. The elephant in the room: talking race in medical education. Adv in Health Sci Educ 22, 761–764 (2017).

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  • Race
  • Racism
  • Social responsibility
  • Social accountability
  • Medical education