A New Premed Curriculum That Includes Courses on Structural Racism

Scholars in the Medicine, Health, and Society program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, have developed a new interdisciplinary curriculum for premed students that gives undergraduates an understanding of structural and institutional racism and how it can impact healthcare disparities.

The authors compared students who followed the traditional premed curriculum at Vanderbilt with those who majored in the Medicine Health and Society program. Premed students in the new program receive training in biomedical courses but also are trained to observe how political, cultural, economic and social factors such as institutional racism shape assumptions about conditions including heart disease, obesity and depression.

The researchers note that 2016 medical school acceptance rates for applicants from the three most popular premed majors at Vanderbilt were 72 percent for neuroscience, 78 percent for molecular and cellular biology, and 88 percent for Medicine, Health, and Society graduates.

Jonathan Metzl, the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry, and the director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, stated that “learning about structure and structural racism involves understanding a host of other factors that are central to the ways health and illness travel in society, from food distribution networks to oppressive zoning laws. Understanding these factors makes for better doctors.

The study, “Using a Structural Competency Framework to Teach Structural Racism in Pre-Health Education,” was published on the website of the journal Social Science & Medicine. It may be accessed here.

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