TUESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Many first-year medical
students in the United States may have an unconscious preference
for white and upper social class people, but these biases don't
appear to affect patient care, according to the results of a survey
at one medical school.
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine researchers analyzed the
responses of 202 first-year medical students who took part in a
Web-based survey that included the Implicit Association Test (IAT),
used to assess unconscious (or "implicit") preferences.
The survey also included direct questions about the students'
race and class preference, and eight hypothetical patient
assessments, focusing on pain evaluation, informed consent, patient
reliability and patient trust.
The IAT results showed that 34 students (17 percent) had no
implicit race preference, 140 (69 percent) had a white preference,
and 28 (14 percent) had a black preference.
The test also showed that 174 students (86 percent) had an
implicit upper-class preference, 22 (11 percent) had no preference,
and six (3 percent) had a lower-class preference.
However, there was no link between implicit race or social
preferences and the students' performance on the patient
assessments, according to the study published in the Sept. 7
medical education theme issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
Race and socioeconomic status are associated with health care
disparities among patients in the United States, Dr. Adil Haider
and colleagues noted in a journal news release. They said that
medical school could offer a good opportunity to decrease implicit
biases and possibly reduce doctor-related health care disparities,
although discussions with students suggest that may not be
"It has been recommended that medical education curricula focus on integrating cross-cultural education to reduce disparities; however, students have noted the existence of a 'hidden curriculum' in which what is taught about bias in the classroom differs starkly from in-hospital training experiences," Haider's team concluded.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more