Study Finds Blacks in Medical Schools Face an Onslaught of Microaggressions

A new study led by researchers at Yale Medical School found that microaggressions are a common experience for medical students and are associated with a positive screening for depression, lower medical school satisfaction, and a higher risk of contemplating transfer or withdrawal from medical school. Female students, Black students, and students with other minoritized racial identities are more likely to experience microaggressions, according to the study. Microagressions are defined as intentional or unintentional verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to the recipient based on their marginalized group membership.

The study, involving 759 students from 120 medical schools, is the largest to date of the experiences, frequency, and effects of microaggressions on a national sample of students at medical schools in the United States, according to the authors.

Almost 99 percent of respondents reported experiencing at least one microaggression in medical school, and nearly 34 percent reported experiencing a microaggression almost daily. Sixty-one percent experienced at least one microaggression a week. Respondents cited their gender (64.4%), race/ethnicity (60.5%), and age (40.9%) as the most common reasons for these experiences. Students identifying as Black, Asian, multiracial, and female were the most likely to have experienced microaggressions at least weekly.

The authors also found that the participants who experienced microaggressions at least weekly were less satisfied with medical school than those with fewer experiences. For example, they were less likely to recommend their medical school to friends and less likely to want to stay at their institution for residency, while they were significantly more likely to consider medical school transfer and withdrawal.

Lead author Nientara Anderson, a psychiatry resident at Yale Medical School, stated that “given that medical students who identified as female, Black, or belonging to other minoritized ethnic groups were the most likely to experience a high frequency of microaggressions, this data suggests that microaggressions may create a substantial psychic burden and hostile educational environment for medical students from historically oppressed groups.”

Dr. Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art, a master’s degree in the history of science, and a medical doctorate, all from Yale University

The full study, “The Association of Microaggressions with Depressive Symptoms and Institutional Satisfaction Among a National Cohort of Medical Students,” was published on the website of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It may be accessed here.

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  1. This study is not New nor Groundbreaking because anyone with an inkling of Black consciousness in academia (e.g., Medical Student or Black faculty) have always known about the daily racist experience in medical school.

  2. @Michael, I found the article to be informative because I would venture not all persons in academia are conscious of the issues Blacks face. Additionally, this research included 759 participants which purported to be the largest to date. Often times there are assumptions about about the plight of marginalized communities. Arguably, there’s a dearth of research that addresses the issues people of color experience in professional programs.

    • @Vincent, I absolutely agree with you. This article is informative and this research is needed. Thank you Dr. Anderson for your work!

    • Vincent: You want us to believe that Caucasians in medical schools are not remotely aware of their micro-aggressions and implicit biases? Quit being an apologist for the robust micro-aggressions of those in the dominate culture. This study sheds no new light on how Black people of African descent are treated in Medical Schools.

    • Vincent,
      You need to work on your Reading Comprehension skills because I was Specifically focusing on Native born Black Americans in academia. That said, I just bet you’re an African or Caribbean immigrant. Time for you to go make some jerk chicken.

    • Respectfully Vincent,

      If you “found that article very informative” you clearly had your head in the sand for decades. In other words, you’re one of those so-called Black academics who have endured racism in academia or corporate America and just remained Silent. The facts remain Vincent, racism is endemic in America both historically and currently regarding of the arena.

  3. Unfortunately, I did not get a sense of WHO is committing the microaggressions. “White” students experiences are omitted from the article. But if I were to extrapolate from what I read in the press, Asian students have continuously filed lawsuits against Ivy League schools (like Yale where one of the authors of the research is from) claiming that due to affirmative action, less qualified Blacks are being admitted over them. So, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that if one were to dig deeper in the study one would find, that due to anti-Black attitudes in the US, it is Black students who are the ones that face persistent microaggressions from every other group: Whites, Asians, Hispanics, Arabs, etc And of course Black females have it worse of all because not only are they subject to the anti-Blackness but they probably also experience microaggression from Black males! So, the moral of the story is we have to stop lumping other minority groups with Blacks because many of hose groups have more virulent racist attitudes towards Blacks than Whites. By lumping them with Blacks obfuscates the virulent anti-Blackness on the planet.

  4. Microaggression research assumes — without proof — that “perpetrators” have “false beliefs” or take actions based on “cultural myths” to denigrate targeted minority “victims” in everyday social interactions. It is also assumed that the “victims” are fully justified in taking offense at being targeted.

    This has about as much intellectual credibility and fairness as the #MeToo movement (“Believe Women”), which has used the political clout of feminism to wage gender warfare on men.

    • The ultimate defender of White Supremacy is doing it again. That’s ok, because you get reminded everyday who you really are, a pure simpleton.

  5. Brother Archer are you an African American male? You can’t be that lost with you’re robust unadulterated ignorance. You have to be something other than a Black man.. You cannot be a Black man. Perhaps one of the Bell Curve misfits from the dominate culture who is totally out of sync.

  6. If a “microaggression” includes a “negative” comment toward an individual, I have no doubt black students experience more of them. In general, MCAT average scores of black matriculants are substantially below those of their white and asian peers (these scores are publicly posted; you need to subtract the free points given to all test-takers in the hope of obscuring the absolute differences). As such, a black student is much more likely to be challenged by a peer or superior because they are much more likely to be incorrect about a fact. Much of medical school education is a recitation of fact on the part of students to demonstrate that they have mastered a topic…

    • Hey Jim,

      I would highly suggest that you recalibrate your view of so-called Black medical students and their delivery of accurate information as compared to their White, Asian, and Latino peers. It appears to me that you errored in your analysis on numerous levels.

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