In summer 2020, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) faculty and students partnered to develop the Anti-Racism Reading Program, a discussion group series designed to help students better understand, critique and mitigate racist underpinnings in modern medicine. After a successful pilot, the program, which aims to break racial barriers, will now be offered to all incoming RUSM students in a move that reiterates our commitment to address racism and fight for social justice through continuous education and reflection.
Two students — Delia Rios, the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Diversity and Inclusion chair, and Kristin Ezell, the former SGA Curriculum Committee Chair — proposed the Anti-Racism Reading Program after learning of its origins at the University of Washington. Partnering with faculty leads Dr. Karie Gaska, Dr. Katrina Parker and Dr. Bobby Gearing, associate professors in the Department of Clinical Foundations, a planning group recruited 14 faculty/staff and 23 student facilitators to lead 37 discussion groups with current students.
“We’ve created a path for all incoming students to have small-group discussions facilitated by a faculty-and-student pair focused on racism, physician bias and medical education,” Dr. Gaska said.
The Anti-Racism Reading Program strives to provide students with an:
Understanding that race is a social construct and not a biological or genetic risk factor for disease
Introductory understanding about how racism contributes to health inequities
The small-group discussions, based on the book, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century by Dorothy Roberts, focused on chapters discussing the invention of race, medical stereotyping and embodying race. The group also listened to the author’s The Problem With Race-Based Medicine TED Talk. A total of 233 first-semester students shared book learnings, their own experiences and discussed next steps for understanding the role of race in medicine.
The Anti-Racism Reading program pilot was well received, and the majority of participants found it helpful in their understanding of race as a social construct. Program leaders have attributed its success to students' strong interest in the topic, and the genuineness of facilitators who received a 96% approval rating in their effectiveness to lead discussions of racism.
We look forward to sharing updates on the Anti-Racism Reading Program and other initiatives that reiterate our social justice commitments. To learn more, visit our Diversity and Inclusion webpage.