Whew Chile! The Medical School Microaggressions​

The irony of medical school is that many of us have been admitted to medical school based on the merit of our passion to save lives.  Many of us have portrayed a montage of the selfless human being that will be dedicated to the underserved in our personal statement and admissions interview. While this is very true for most, it is hard to believe it is the truth for many.

Let’s just say that if the way my colleagues treat me is a reflection of their bedside manner,  we have a problem. 

I constantly question the perception of many future doctors and representatives in medical education that I have crossed paths with as a medical student.

As a person of color in higher education, I think we can all relate to the fact that when you are a person of color in higher education, you feel like a fish out of water.

From personal experience as a black woman in academia, I know one thing to be true.

Once you get to college, you find other people of color and suddenly, like your mama’s refrigerator growing up, you stick together like magnets and decorate the large white space.  This bond fosters your progress through your education until you’re reminded that you are a minority.

Sometimes the reminder is overt and straight up racist.

But, many times it is subtle.

These subtleties come in the form of microaggressions. Microaggressions are “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership” – Dr. Derald Wing Sue Ph.D.

I took the time to ask several underrepresented minority students about their experiences with microaggressions in medical school. Please be advised that this will be a continuing thread to be updated on a rolling basis on behalf of myself and other underrepresented minorities in medicine.

Microaggressions run rampant in medical education.

Student Doctor Jones DO Class 2022 

What’s the hardest part about being an underrepresented minority in medicine?
I have to constantly pave my own path to medicine.

What are some microaggressions or unpleasant comments you’ve heard from your medical student classmates/faculty?

It was suggested by faculty that I withhold my story about the alternative route I took to medical school because it gives the impression that I am not a competitive candidate.

Student Doctor Germain  DO Class 2022 

What’s the hardest part about being an underrepresented minority in medicine?

The lack of mentors

What are some microaggressions or unpleasant comments you’ve heard from your medical student classmates/faculty?

It’s not always about the words that are said. It’s the body language that hurts more than their microaggressive/ unpleasant comments. I’ve recently experienced this during one of my classes from one of the adjunct faculty and I had to take a step back and analyze what just happened. 

Student Doctor Louis DO Class of 2021

What’s the Hardest part about being an underrepresented minority in medicine?

Figuring out how to take a stand against microaggressions without jeopardizing your future as a physician. The saddest part is that it doesn’t end with medical school, it continues throughout your medical career.

What are some microaggressions or unpleasant comments you’ve heard from your medical student classmates/faculty?

When respectfully asking a professor to clarify his comments, I overheard a classmate say of me: “Wow, she’s angry” The angry black woman stereotype is a never-ending battle. Why is it that our white counterparts are seen as assertive whether they’re being rude or not, yet we’re seen as angry and aggressive for speaking up in any which way?

Student Doctor Winnell DO Class of 2021

What’s the Hardest part about being an underrepresented minority in medicine?

Self-doubt, mentorship,  lack of representation and not being heard or felt.

What are some microaggressions or unpleasant comments you’ve heard from your medical student classmates/faculty?

As a black medical student, I constantly have my name interchanged with other black female medical students. I have spoken to classmates and engaged in deep conversation and worked in group projects and when I see them again, they address me as if we’ve never met.  I attended a medical conference when a student presented a poster on African school girls using alternative products during their menstrual cycle instead of the typical maxi pad and tampons. The student proceeded to list alternative makeshift maxi pads and referred to them as “ridiculous things that you won’t even imagine”. I’ve been questioned when giving presentations about evidence-based research about the black-experiences, insinuating that my literature search was made up. I’ve been slighted and disrespected via body language, email, and event invitation when trying to foster the conversation of the black experience as it relates to medicine.

Now What?

In short, things that may be seemingly insignificant to you are actually problematic to me.  What we can take from all of this is that discussions must be heavily entertained. We should encourage having an open discussion about our differences, biases (conscious and unconscious), and validate each other’s feelings. 

How You Can Help Minority Medical Students

As the outgoing President of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), an organization dedicated to promoting the scholarship and professional development of current and future minority medical students I ask for your support.

We have just started a Fundraiser Campaign to raise $5000 to support our annual Black History Month Programming as well as our Annual Medical Education Conference attendance.

On April 17–21, 2019, we’re planning to attend The Annual Medical Education conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During this conference, we will be trained and exposed to various physician mentors and enrichment opportunities necessary for our advancement as future doctors.

Your small contribution will have a big impact on our lives and our future in the medical industry. We hope you’ll consider making a donation of $10, $25, $50 or more to our Donation Link. Even if your contribution is a smaller amount, sharing this on Facebook and Twitter would be greatly appreciated.

If you enjoyed reading and would like more tips on medical school and study habits, make sure to sign up here.

10 thoughts on “Whew Chile! The Medical School Microaggressions​

      1. Well, I’m glad you had an open mind to read it… Good luck in med school! Believe me, med school is only a dream for many people and will lead to a fruitful career and bright future. Don’t forget how fortunate you are to have that opportunity.

      2. 😁
        Just so you know, Idk if this is on my end, but your comments aren’t loading and I can’t see any and it says there are none…I’m unable to like your comment…

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