The Social Medicine Consortium is an international organization committed to educating those in the health professions on the social determinants of health. Currently, the Social Medicine Consortium is embarking on an exciting project known as the Campaign Against Racism, which, as its name suggests, is focused on fighting the different forms of racism that plague the medical profession around the globe. Recently, Irene Sue ‘22 and I attended a meeting of Social Medicine Consortium chapter representatives from around the world, including medical students, residents, public health students and professionals, social workers, community organizers, and more. The weekend was extremely productive, and a wonderful opportunity for meeting individuals from all walks of life committed to the same objectives as those of the Social Justice Coalition here at UVM.
A chapter of the Social Medicine Consortium, the Social Justice Coalition is helping to develop a social medicine curriculum to supplement the current basic science curriculum in the pre-clinical years. Features include the Social Medicine Theme of the Week during first-year classes, guest speakers on social-health related topics, and links to social medicine-related objectives on the Comet interface. While these are extremely important advancements, there is still a long way to go to implement the social medicine curriculum in its entirety. Part of our goal for the weekend with the Campaign Against Racism was to identify tangible ways other chapters of the SMC are teaching social medicine in their medical schools and bring these ideas back for use at UVM – thankfully, we came home with many we are excited to share.
At the workshop, we talked about the three distinctive definitions of racism that many people aren’t aware of, namely, personally mediated racism, institutionalized racism, and internalized racism (Dr. Camara Jones). Personally mediated racism is likely what comes to mind when someone says the word racism: it refers to the discriminatory acts of one person against another. Institutionalized racism is more broad and involves structural barriers that favor those of one race against another. It is often brushed aside as a societal norm; usually the extension of some initial historical insult. Finally, internalized racism is the more enigmatic reaction to the other two types of racism; it occurs when people internalize racist ideals propagated from person to person and on an institutional level. This kind of racism is usually subconscious, hidden, and is always detrimental to one’s personal sense of value. Thus, it is important to educate on these different forms of racism which can often go unnoticed because they are not so overt – yet they still have powerful impact on healthcare delivery.
Such themes are essential components of a medical education that prepares students to enter into a system that operates, consciously or not, with a high degree of institutionalized racism. Education is the only way to begin to resolve this problem which many don’t realize is right in front of them. By teaming up with the Social Medicine Consortium and the Campaign Against Racism, the Social Justice Coalition is now connected to people and resources that will equip our medical school to provide this essential training that will shape the way we practice medicine. Thank you to the UVM Larner College of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion for providing the resources to make the weekend with the SMC possible. We look forward to the work we have cut out for us – it isn’t easy to develop a more inclusive medical education curriculum; however, it is important, and we are so grateful to UVM for recognizing the value of doing so in order to tackle racism as it exists in medicine today. Stay tuned for more, and if you have any questions or want to hear more specifics about the SMC or Campaign Against Racism, don’t hesitate to reach out to Isi Beach, Irene Sue, or any other members of the Social Justice Coalition.