A recent perspective paper by California academics published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on April 27 has sparked controversy by suggesting that medical students should be segregated by race, according to a report from The Blaze.
While the authors did not clarify whether facilities like water fountains, restrooms, and bus seating should also be divided by race, they did advocate for teaching medical students in racially segregated cohorts.
This paper’s viewpoint aligns with the University of California at San Francisco’s (UCSF) attempts to “decolonize the health sciences” as part of their anti-racist initiatives, but it has been met with significant backlash and deemed “morally abhorrent.”
The controversial recommendation was developed by a number of UCSF academics and administrators, including social worker Leanna Lewis, pediatrician Camila Fabersunne, assistant professors of pediatrics Corina Iocopetti and Dannielle McBride, and inquiry program coordinator Gabby Negussie-Retta.
They argue in their paper that the “root cause of racially disparate health outcomes” and medical education is based “on legacies of colonialism and racism.”
Building on this premise, the authors maintain that “we need curricula for training physicians to dismantle the systems that perpetuate these inequities. Since traditional approaches to medical education are themselves founded in inequitable systems, new approaches are essential.”
They suggest the introduction of racial affinity group caucuses (RAGCs) as a solution, defined as “facilitated sessions involving participants grouped according to self-identified racial or ethnic identity to support integration of antiracism curricula into clinical practice.”
The idea behind RAGCs is that these racially segregated cohorts would allow students to explore critical race theory within the framework of their “own racialized experience,” without interference from individuals of other racial backgrounds.
The authors also contend that non-segregated learning environments can lead to “retraumatizing, resulting in imposter syndrome, heightened anxiety, and a reduced sense of belonging,” The Blaze notes.
In response to these issues, the authors advocate racial segregation within medical education. The proposal explains that “in a space without White people, BIPOC participants can bring their whole selves, heal from racial trauma together, and identify strategies for addressing structural racism.”
Additionally, the authors point out that the UCSF School of Medicine has already implemented this segregationist method in pilot programs, using RAGCs for debriefing about current events and re-education initiatives.
While the authors assert that RAGCs would enable Black individuals and other people of color to “build community, deepen their understanding of and healing from racism … express a full range of emotions,” and affirm their racial perspectives, they also propose that white individuals should utilize these opportunities to disengage from and dismantle their racial perspectives.