Perceptions of bias in medical school curriculum

James L Bills, Tennessee State University


This study surveyed over 540 students at two private medical schools regarding perceptions of bias during admissions and in curriculum, lectures and teaching events, evaluations and grades, and interpersonal relationships. One school's population was predominantly European American and the other predominantly African American. Students marked level of agreement or disagreement to survey items which were then assigned strengths to generate descriptive statistics. Item mean scores and survey summative scores were analyzed to compare individual item results and student attitudes regarding bias. Though both populations perceived their institutions positively, statistically significant differences were found between races at the predominantly European-American institution, but differences were not as pervasive at the predominantly African American institution. The latter population, though they rated their school lower overall, were more congruent in their perceptions as a population. Race at each school was a major differentiator. Students, when analyzed by race, were more fragmented at the predominantly European-American school. At both institutions, the least populous race was more sensitive to issues of bias than majority race students and, likewise, much less positive regarding issues within their institution. A student's gender was a statistically insignificant factor at both schools, but particularly at the African-American institution. Bias in curriculum and lectures was perceived by the least populous race in each school in much higher numbers than perceived by the most populace race. A significant percentage of students at both schools agreed they had experienced biased comments from other medical students and that medical students are not less biased than other graduate student populations. Two-thirds of White students in the predominantly African-American school agreed that society ignores racism and bias in everyday life, but only one-fourth of Whites in the predominantly European-American school agreed. African-American students disagreed more strongly in this survey with a “color blind” admissions process than European-American students. Black students when in the minority demographically were twice as likely to scrutinize more closely references to race and ethnicity in curriculum. They also agreed more strongly that their subsequent performance suffers when bias is perceived when in the minority in a school than when constituting the majority race.

Subject Area

Health education|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Curricula|Teaching|African Americans

Recommended Citation

James L Bills, "Perceptions of bias in medical school curriculum" (2005). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3187587.