Original Article

CME Article: Developing Awareness and Allies: Simulating Difficult Conversations about Microaggressions for Faculty and Students

Authors: Allison Kumnick, BA, Khushali Shah, MD, MPH, Carly Muller, MD, MPH, Kasha Bornstein, MD, MPH, Hanna Perone, MD, MPH, Alexandra Herweck, MD, MPH, Samantha Syms, MS, CHSE, Saily M. Gutierrez, BS, Paul Mendez, MD, Sarah Bland, MD, Gauri Agarwal, MD, Monica Broome, MD, Julia Belkowitz, MD, MPH


Objectives: Discrimination and bias in clinical training often take the form of microaggressions, which, albeit unintentional, are detrimental to the learning environment and well-being of students. Although there are a few reports of medical schools training students to respond to microaggressions, none have included a complementery student-led faculty training module. The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate a case-based approach to improving student resilience and increasing faculty awareness of microaggressions in the clinical setting.

Methods: We created four realistic cases of microaggressions and uncomfortable conversations, based on students’ experiences on the wards, to implement training for incoming third-year students and their core faculty. Standardized patients were trained to effectively portray discriminatory faculty, residents, and patients. Institutional review board–approved surveys were administered and statistically analyzed to evaluate for efficacy.

Results: Students had greater mean confidence scores for responding to microaggressions immediately and at 6 months after the sessions (P < 0.05). Faculty showed improved mean confidence and understanding of the definition of a microaggression (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: This approach had results similar to other studies, with the additional benefit of training faculty with the same scenarios. We believe that this method helped bridge the gap between students’ notions of discrimination and faculty understanding of microaggressions.

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