Against the backdrop of the inequalities exposed by the coronavirus and international Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Cambridge medical students rallied for social justice and change with an open letter to the Regius Professor Patrick Maxwell and then-Dean, Dr Diana Wood.
The letter highlighted the impact of institutional racism on medical education and healthcare and sought to bring attention to “aspects of our clinical training that we would like to improve to ensure that institutionalised racism and micro-aggressions within the workplace are not just challenged, but eliminated.”
The medical student-led effort collected more than 2200 signatures, provided well-reasoned and statistics-backed arguments and proposed recommendations for improving the curriculum. In response, the School’s leadership formed the Racism in Medical Education Group, a staff/student working group tasked with taking matters forward in a way that brings about meaningful and sustainable change.
Clinical School in the Wider World
The School’s work in reducing racism in medical education took greats steps forward by forming three sub-groups to tackle the issues: on curriculum, reporting/supporting and staff training.
Another wide-reaching effort in which the School is involved focuses on how skin conditions are diagnosed on Black and brown skin and developing educational resources for UK medical schools. Skin Deep showcases images from clinicians all over the world aimed at increasing the diversity of materials used in clinical teaching. Dr Michelle Arora (Paediatrics, Student Experience Lead) is a leading figure working on the global project in collaboration with Norwich and Anglia Ruskin medical schools. Listen to a news broadcast about Skin Deep.
Last Christmas, the consortium delivered a survey across all three schools exploring the terminology to use to describe race and ethnicity for self-identification. The study sought to address the lack confidence among educators in knowing what words or phrases to use, which can pose a barrier to delivering education on presentations in different skin tones.
The main findings from the roughly 180 responses were that ethnicity, race and skin colour needed to be considered as separate entities. There was little agreement on acceptable terminology to use to describe race and ethnicity and students used these terms interchangeably.