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Racial/Gender Biases in Student Clinical Decision-Making: a Mixed-Method Study of Medical School Attributes Associated with Lower Incidence of Biases

  • Robert L. Williams
  • Cirila Estela Vasquez
  • Christina M. Getrich
  • Miria Kano
  • Blake Boursaw
  • Crystal Krabbenhoft
  • Andrew L. Sussman
Original Research

Abstract

Background

Accumulating evidence suggests that clinician racial/gender decision-making biases in some instances contribute to health disparities. Previous work has produced evidence of such biases in medical students.

Objective

To identify contextual attributes in medical schools associated on average with low levels of racial/gender clinical decision-making biases.

Design

A mixed-method design using comparison case studies of 15 medical schools selected based on results of a previous survey of student decision-making bias: 7 schools whose students collectively had, and 8 schools whose students had not shown evidence of such biases.

Participants

Purposively sampled faculty, staff, underrepresented minority medical students, and clinical-level medical students at each school.

Main Measures

Quantitative descriptive data and qualitative interview and focus group data assessing 32 school attributes theorized in the literature to be associated with formation of decision-making and biases. We used a mixed-method analytic design with standard qualitative analysis and fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis.

Key Results

Across the 15 schools, a total of 104 faculty, administrators and staff and 21 students participated in individual interviews, and 196 students participated in 29 focus groups. While no single attribute or group of attributes distinguished the two clusters of schools, analysis showed some contextual attributes were seen more commonly in schools whose students had not demonstrated biases: longitudinal reflective small group sessions; non-accusatory approach to training in diversity; longitudinal, integrated diversity curriculum; admissions priorities and action steps toward a diverse student body; and school service orientation to the community.

Conclusions

We identified several potentially modifiable elements of the training environment that are more common in schools whose students do not show evidence of racial and gender biases.

KEY WORDS

students medical decision-making healthcare disparities 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Lee Green, MD, MPH, for consultation with the fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis, and Denise Ruybal for untiring and unflappable administrative support.

Funders

Research reported in this paper was supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R01MD006073 and P20MD004811.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Prior Presentations

The findings of this study have been presented in part or in whole at the following conferences: (1) 13th Annual AAMC Health Workforce Research Conference. Arlington, VA, May 2017; (2) Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting. Washington DC, April 2017; (3) Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Conference on Medical Student Education. Anaheim, CA, February 2017; (4) 43rd Annual meeting of North American Primary Care Research Group, Cancun, Mexico, November 2015.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.

Disclaimer

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Supplementary material

11606_2018_4543_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Williams
    • 1
  • Cirila Estela Vasquez
    • 2
  • Christina M. Getrich
    • 3
  • Miria Kano
    • 4
  • Blake Boursaw
    • 5
  • Crystal Krabbenhoft
    • 1
  • Andrew L. Sussman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Family and Community Medicine; MSC09-5060 University of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Morehouse School of MedicineAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  4. 4.Cancer Research and Treatment CenterUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  5. 5.College of NursingUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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