Trainee medics are to be taught that watching out for a patient turning blue is ‘inherently racist’
A leading UK medical school says that traditional training in Britain is inherently racist and it plans to make alterations to a cirriculum that it claims “needs decolonising”.
MSN reports: Dr Joseph Hartland, part of the team heading up the University of Bristol Medical School, has said long-established parts of the UK medical curriculum, such as teaching life-or-death clinical signs, are racist as they focus on teaching students how the signs present in white people.
Speaking to the BBC, Dr Hartland put forward the example of patients turning blue if short of breath, a sign which does not apply for people with dark skin.
“Historically, medical education was written by white middle-class men, so there is an inherent racism in medicine that means it exists to serve white patients above all others,” he said.
“Essentially we are teaching students how to recognise a life-or-death clinical sign largely in white people.”
Dr Hartland said that changes are being pushed for by students themselves, who are concerned about their ability to treat BAME patients in the NHS.
The medical school is also looking at addressing the gender issues in the curriculum, Dr Hartland wrote on Twitter.
He added: “As a white man helping to lead changes that are driven by a commitment to decolonising our curriculum and taking an anti-racist approach I hope I can demonstrate good white allyship, but I am NOT sharing this for accolades. I don’t deserve it. This work shouldn’t need to be done.”
The announcement comes after students at other medical schools called for change.
One black medical student in London has already launched an attempt to “decolonise” the curriculum, with the support of his university, in the wake of Black Lives Matter movement protests this summer.
Malone Mukwende, a second-year at St George’s, University of London, noticed he was often only being taught about the way illnesses presented on white skin.
He both felt alienated and worried that people with darker skin would not be diagnosed as a result of doctors failing to spot the signs of disease on their bodies, as they had not been trained to spot them.
The student decided to take matters into his own hands, creating a handbook for medics showing the way skin afflictions and other common physical reactions -including Covid-19 symptoms -look on black and brown skin.
The handbook, Mind the Gap, includes side-by-side images showing the way diseases present differently on dark and light skin, and highlights appropriate language for doctors to use.
It will be released, with the support of St George’s, in the coming months. In a statement, the university wrote: “It was agreed that this was a very important issue and an essential part of decolonising the curriculum.”
Mr Mukwende highlighted a recent petition calling for teaching clinical skills on black and brown skin that garnered more than 150,000 signatures, and said: “The petition, Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement all illustrate there is an urgent need for change.”
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