An update on our work to tackle racism and inequality
Medicine and dentistry are caring professions in which inequality, racism and discrimination should play no part. Yet, consistently, they do. Within universities, racism damages confidence, affects learning and feeds the ethnic attainment gap throughout university and beyond.
Black lives should matter to every individual and every healthcare professional. Racial discrimination is a key social determinant of health and driver of racial and ethnic health inequities. It adversely affects healthcare professionals and at its worst it kills, for example in the UK black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.
Fostering supportive learning environments in which every student can thrive is critical to tackling such inequalities. Medical and dental schools can play a key role in driving change, by dismantling inequalities where they exist.
The following work streams are currently underway to improve black and minority ethnic student outcomes:
- Supporting medical and dental schools to create an inclusive environment
We are supporting a group of medical and dental school staff and students to create best practice indicators on how medical and dental schools can embed equality, diversity and inclusion across the whole of the work that they do. This work is practical and will give medical and dental schools ideas for concrete actions they can take on subjects including:
- Diversifying curricula by ensuring that representation of diverse patient and student groups and challenging stereotypes are covered
- Advice on how to implement interventions for staff and students such as reverse mentoring and bystander training
- Improving reporting systems and ensuring student complaints of racial harassment are handled appropriately and sensitively
Throughout this work we shall listen to students, both by having them involved in developing this work but also by testing what we produce with groups of students from minority groups from medical and dental schools across the UK.
- Tackling the award gap
The Medical Schools Council has a work plan in place to work with medical schools to support them to identify their award gap and to share best practice in how to reduce it. Research has shown that the culture of learning environments is key to understanding the award gap and in many ways the work we are supporting on EDI will also support this aim. The Dental Schools Council are actively looking to mirror this work moving forwards.
What is evident is that universities and students need to come together to create more opportunities to talk and learn about racism and the attainment gap. It is of vital importance that universities send a clear institutional message that issues of race will be dealt with as part of wider, strategic organisational practice.
While we are encouraged by the fact that many medical and dental students and staff are firm advocates for equality, we recognise that this is a very difficult time for some who will be feeling particularly affected by the events of the past days. Medical and dental schools must support their staff and students by directing affected individuals to places in which they can access proper pastoral support.
Since launching the Selecting for Excellence project in 2013, medical schools have come a long way in widening participation in medicine. Dental schools have likewise followed suit through various locally or institutionally arranged programmes to widen participation in dental schools. Removing barriers has helped to build healthcare professions which are now more diverse and representative of the communities they serve. However, universities can go further in ensuring that all students are able to thrive at university, whatever their background. We shall continue to use every effort to break down barriers within medical and dental schools and ensure that we are taking a proactive role in tackling racism, discrimination and inequality.
- The Medical Schools Council is the representative body for UK medical schools. The council is made of the heads of UK medical schools and meets in order to shape the future of medical education in the UK.