Health care equity

Tips for health educators on addressing discrimination in the learning environment

Creating a brave space for having difficult conversations can be an important step for educators to take, according to a new commentary article in NAM Perspectives.

Addressing discrimination in health settings is critical in reducing health disparities and ensuring historically marginalized populations receive appropriate care and achieve the best possible outcomes, according to a new commentary article in the National Academy of Medicine’s NAM Perspectives. Co-authored by the AOA’s Director of Public Health, Stephanie Townsell, MPH, the article aims to give health professions educators steps to take to learn about and acknowledge their own implicit biases and also create a safe space for others to learn.

One suggested activity is for educators to have each person in a class write words that describe who they are, followed by a discussion celebrating each person’s background and heritage.

Educators are then encouraged to use the descriptions to create an environment where everyone feels safe in sharing their “authentic self.” The article provides the guidelines below to help facilitate a productive conversation during this exercise and frame the perspectives of educators and students alike.


  • Examine and acknowledge your own implicit bias
  • Be inquisitive (why did I or you react that way?)
  • Reduce stigma associated with isms by getting students and faculty to acknowledge, accept, and confront their own biases
  • Use purposeful language in questions for deeper self-reflection

Create a safe space

  • Explore students’ thoughts using open-ended questions
  • Listen to responses
  • Remove the fear of being judged
  • Role model authenticity and genuineness

Educate interprofessionally

  • Demonstrate the value of interprofessional teams by role modeling work and effective communication with other professions
  • Use interprofessional simulations to practice warm handoffs

Recognize and manage institutional racism

  • Use community/patient educators
  • Do not make any assumptions (ask others about experiences that have shaped their worldview)
  • Expose students to different reading materials
  • Self-reflect for possible microaggressions

You can read the article in full on the NAM website.

Related reading:

5 ways to combat racism and be an ally to African-Americans in the health care setting

Addressing racism in the clinical setting: OU-HCOM workshops help students, preceptors

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