How I used my voice to make a difference at my school

I believe that as much as we are taught about path/pharm/micro and disease processes and how to work up different patient complaints, our medical education should also include discussions about unconscious bias and how it plays a role in our medical decision making. We all have biases that cause us to automatically think a certain way about a patient the second we walk through the door, and if we don’t recognize them, they can limit or alter the options we offer to our patients. We may also slip and say the wrong things to our patients (microagressions). Our biases can further perpetuate the inequities that are already present in healthcare. I realized that as a first and second year medical student, I didn’t get much exposure to this topic outside of a 3-day cultural competency intersession we had in the first year. It was actually our SNMA (Student National Medical Association) that was holding these discussions as opposed to them being a part of the curriculum despite the AAMC making such a big push for it in medical education.

So, last year I set up a meeting and made a pitch to the VP of our medical school about this and he agreed 100% with everything I was talking about and gave me his full support. But then he asked me to chair the ad hoc committee that was going to be making these changes. Basically he asked a 3rd year medical student to lead a committee of MDs, PhDs, and other campus faculty. I mean I had a lot of leadership experience under my belt, but never anything like this! But he had a lot of faith in me and gave me a lot of encouragement, so I said yes. Now, before the committee could be formed, it had to be approved by the big scary curriculum oversight committee at our medical school. So I had to present to them next. There was some hesitation and questioning at that meeting but in the end it was voted to form the committee and for me to be chair.

Since then, between all my working and studying on rotations, I’ve been balancing this committee. We had to do data reviews and literature reviews and there was a lot of back and forth about what we really wanted to accomplish. In the end, we managed to come up with a plan to actually integrate more discussions and teachings about unconscious bias into the curriculum, as opposed to the brief intervention we currently have. These recommendations were actually presented to the main oversight committee this past week (literally like a year after). They were very well received and I was pleasantly surprised to not get grilled as much as I did last time. So now I’ll be working with our Dean of curriculum to get them implemented, hopefully for next years incoming students!

I’m very proud of myself for stepping up to the plate and actually finding a way to make a difference in something I feel strongly about. My role in this arena led to me being selected as a 2017 NAMME (National Association of Minority Medical Educators) national scholarship recipient. I was also selected as winner of Augusta University’s Diversity and Inclusion Award last year. These are important to me because I’m being rewarded for pushing myself out of my comfort zone and making waves in an area I once felt I couldn’t even step into. So I write this post to encourage anyone who feels like maybe their voice as a student isn’t going to be heard over the crowd. Or maybe that opportunity is there and you feel like you don’t have the time to commit. That’s not true. If there is something you feel strongly about, there’s a reason why that is and you need to give consideration to how you can make a difference!

“The biggest rewards in life are found outside your comfort zone. Live with it. Fear and risk are prerequisites if you want to enjoy a life of success and adventure.”

– Jack Canfield

Have a wonderful week! 🙂

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