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Race, Power, & Medicine: Examining Race in Preclinical Medical Education

Project Overview

A series of articles and academic collaborations to think more critically about how we use race and ethnicity in medicine.

Identifying the Problem

Jennifer was inspired to write and organize about race in medicine after finding that there were very few spaces to talk about issues of context and power within her medical training. She was interested in how medicine operationalizes and uses race, and the complicated politics and histories that allow racial differences to be employed to the detriment of individuals with marginalized social identities. To her, these were important conversations and questions to consider, and she grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of time and support dedicated to addressing these issues in contemporary American medical training. She sought to create a project that would spark dialogue, provide information that would further conversations about using race as a biomedical proxy, and collaborate with medical school administration to think more critically about how medical students are taught about the biological implications of race and ethnicity in medicine.

Creating A Solution

Jennifer decided to write and publish articles that provide a historical context of race in medicine, with the goal of moving towards understanding the complexities of racial formation in the clinic. It was important to her that the articles spoke to general medical students as well as academics and doctors. 

She began by undergoing significant research not only on health disparities, but literature on health inequity that seeks to parse out how traditions of oppression and marginalization continue to create inequalities in the distribution of political, socioeconomic and environmental resources that are required for the attainment of health and wellbeing. Through a series of meetings with the medical school administration, Jennifer helped create a task force on race, whose mission is the continued examination of how race is taught in medical preclinical curriculum.

Lessons Learned

Jennifer found that the greatest challenge in pushing for curricular reform is how long and takes. And with only a year and a half as active preclinical students at medical school, it is also difficult to establish institutional memory. “Powermapping and finding allies in and beyond the medical school were incredibly important in continuing and leaving evidence of the work already done,” says Jennifer.


Jennifer did not require any funding to create and implement this project. Instead, she turned to free resources, such as scholarly articles, and advice, support, collaboration and mentorship from the medical education administration and university faculty and students.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2014

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