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Columbia Medical School Launches Workshops on ‘Disrupting Racism’ and Microaggression Management

If you've come down with a bad case of racism, you might wanna race to the emergency room.

The doctor there may have attended Columbia medical school, and the college knows how to disrupt it.

Or it will.

On Wednesday, the Columbia University Irving Medical Center released “Disrupting the Effects of Racism.”

According to the article, there's a repugnant reality for medical-minded minorities:

As all medical students know, medical school is a challenge. But for Black students and others underrepresented in medicine, racism is an additional challenge.

The idea of “underrepresentation” is interesting — concerning skin color, what's the exact right amount of representation? The same as the general populace?

Whatever the correct degree, Jean-Marie Alves-Bradford — associate clinical professor of psychiatry and director of the Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in the Department of Psychiatry at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) — surmises the insufficient state of such results in racist victimization:

“As a medical student, you're learning a lot, changing a lot, and the hours and schedule are challenging, and then students who are underrepresented in medicine have to deal with racism…”

Also a burden to bear: “[a] system that doesn't always see them equally.”

But things are looking up:

“[W]e created spaces for them to have time to process and heal.”

The school has partnered with Hilda Hutcherson, MD — senior associate dean for the school's diversity and multicultural affairs — along with Hetty Cunningham, MD, director of equity and justice in curricular affairs.

Together — and funded by Columbia's provost office — the crew's crafted workshops that “foster healing and agency among medical students who have experienced racism.”

Those seminars were born of conversations Jean-Marie, Hilda, and Hetty had with members of Columbia's Black and Latino Students Organization.

Those discussions' initial intention, per the piece: to “lend support when the pandemic first began.”

Then bad went to worse.

Jean-Marie explains:

“[B]ecause of George Floyd and numerous other murders and horrible acts of violence toward people of color, it's been very difficult for students in general, but especially for students underrepresented in medicine.”

“So we wanted to help,” she continues.

After all — how can you learn medicine when you're traumatized by the news?

“It's hard to learn when you're dealing with trauma, and medical students have a limited time to learn what they need to learn.”

Hence:

The workshops started this spring for medical trainees — medical students, residents, and fellows — from groups underrepresented in medicine.

As for trying to tame the bull of bigotry, it isn't Columbia's first rodeo.

Earlier this month, the school's president — Lee C. Bollinger — insisted Critical Race Theory's an essential good:

“[CRT] and the essential scholarship it has advanced may challenge many long-held views, but that is what makes this work so urgent and necessary.”

The man was plum prideful:

“I could not be more proud that it is taking place at Columbia. This is, after all, what makes universities such vital institutions in society.”

And in the way of medicine, Columbia Medical School released “anti-bias” guidelines in June.

A couple quotes:

A key principle that informs our approach to promoting an anti-bias, anti-racist, and inclusive curriculum is that race is a social construct…
[O]f two people who identify as women, one may carry a Y chromosome while the other does not; one may have a uterus or ovaries or breasts or a penis while the other does not.

As for the upcoming workshops, they'll also address “trainees' experiences of microaggressions and racial trauma and teach therapeutic and coping skills.”

Participants will “learn about existing systems of privilege and oppression, share experiences of being confronted with racism, practice microaggression response strategies to disrupt racism, and learn resilience strategies to cope with racialized trauma.”

The write-up confirms that “all trainees have experienced microaggression before coming to medical school.”

But once there, they're bound to be more mistreated — even, as asserted by Jean-Marie, where grading's concerned:

“There are lots of incidents where others have minimized the value of the student, or presumed that the trainees don't deserve various things, whether it be a grade on a test, or admittance to the institution itself.”

“Many” Americans assume doctors aren't black or Hispanic:

“Many people…have presumptions that Black and Latinx people are not physicians, so when trainees walk into a room in the hospital, they're presumed to be housekeeping or patient transport staff.”

For those who've experienced a microaggression, Jean-Marie says, “the first step sometimes is to stop and take some time, 24 or 48 hours, to think about what happened, think about how you want to respond.”

That's a long time to dwell on the micro.

But it sounds as if it's needed.

Judging from the Ivy League school's report, the medical profession's got a long way to go in fixing racism.

Columbia's working on it.

But if the college can't find a way to achieve equity, it appears there's work on a contingency plan:

-ALEX

See more pieces from me:

BIPOC Teacher Life: Study Decries School System's ‘Smog of Cultural Racism' and ‘Impenetrable Wall of Whiteness'

University Librarian: It's Transphobic to Say Lesbians Are Going Extinct

Doggone Discrimination: Academics Claim Bias Against Pit Bulls Is Racist

Find all my RedState work here.

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