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August 10, 2021

UMass Medical School joins other Mass. medical schools to dismantle racism in medicine

Photo | Grant Welker UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester

UMass Medical School in Worcester was among several groups to release on Tuesday a set of principles taking aim at racism in medical education and healthcare organizations.

UMass Medical School was joined by the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the state’s three other medical schools, including Boston University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Tufts University School of Medicine, all located in Boston.

“With this set of principles, we are committing to create and sustain a culture across medicine in Massachusetts that is equitable as we seek to dismantle racism in all of its forms, starting with our medical students’ education for years to come,” said Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, in a statement.

The principles outlined cover four key areas. The first among them is to acknowledge and learn, including understanding the history of racism in medicine, how privilege works and both implicit and explicit biases. The point includes recognizing race as a social construct, rather than a biological one, as well as understanding racism as a public health and moral threat. The point calls on education regarding the history of racism in medicine and the disparities it has produced.

The second point calls on leaders in various institutions and groups to visibly commit to dismantling racism in medicine, including identifying the ways in which racism and biases manifest in organizational operations, including learning environments and through education. It calls on leaders to apply an antiracist lens to all areas of institutional culture, requiring professional development regarding racism in medicine and to take action as needed.

The third point principle calls for confronting and dismantling practices and policies devaluing trainees, physicians, faculty, staff and patients of color. This includes listening to relevant parties and taking a multi-level, comprehensive approach to re-think structures including hiring, finances, internal messaging and setting clear and equitable methods for evaluating professional and academic performance.

The final principle calls for cultivating a culture of empathy, including recognizing the intersectionality of oppression and promoting understanding about the trauma and health consequences marginalized groups in healthcare organizations experience. 

“It is mission critical for the Medical Society, the DPH, and our state’s medical schools to lead in supporting the next generation of physicians and their patients,” said MMS president Dr. Carole Allen, in a statement. “This document outlines important steps to address systemic racism as it manifests in health care.”

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