Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 34, Issue 12, pp 2738–2739 | Cite as

“This institution was never meant for me”: the Impact of Institutional Historical Portraiture on Medical Students

  • Elizabeth FitzsousaEmail author
  • Nientara Anderson
  • Anna Reisman
Concise Research Report

Many academic institutions are reexamining their relationship to historical artwork in shared or public spaces, and questioning the continued commemoration of figures who participated in and benefited from slavery, colonization, and the oppression of marginalized populations.1, 2, 3, 4, 5 This qualitative project examined how Yale School of Medicine (YSM) students responded to institutional portraiture at Sterling Hall of Medicine (SHM)–the flagship building on the medical school campus.


We conducted a qualitative interview study of Yale medical students from the classes of 2018–2021 to assess their perspective on institutional portraiture. Students were recruited by email. This study was approved by the Yale Human Subjects Committee. Confidential, one-on-one interviews were scheduled with one of two interviewers (EF, NA) who developed the interview guide (Table 1). Twelve of 15 interviewees answered a brief demographic survey: 5 identified as male, 7 as female. Self-reported...



Elizabeth Fitzsousa was funded by the YSM Medical Student Fellowship.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

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


  1. 1.
    Bacon J. Confederate Statue, known as ‘Silent Sam,’ toppled by protestors on UNC campus. USA Today. August 21, 2018. Accessed 26 June 2019.
  2. 2.
    Rosenberg Z. Confederate general busts at Bronx Community College will be removed. Curbed New York. August 16, 2017, Accessed 26 June 2019.
  3. 3.
    Kowalczyk L. In an About-Face, Hospital will Disperse Portraits of Past White Male Luminaries, Put the Focus on Diversity. Boston Globe. June 14, 2018. Accessed 26 June 2019.
  4. 4.
    Strauss V. Students Remove Shakespeare Portrait from English Department at Ivy League School. Washington Post. December 13, 2016. Accessed 26 June 2019.
  5. 5.

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Internal MedicineYale School of MedicineNew HavenUSA

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