Giving voice to The “Silent” Curriculum: Cultural Sensitivity, Explicit Reflection, and the Role of the Bystander in Medical Education

Faculty Planning Committee: Sigall Bell, Katie Brooks MSIV (Brown Med Sch, Providence RI) Alex Green, Jennifer Kesselheim, Jason Fogler, Alan Woolf, Jennifer Potter

Facilitators: Jason Fogler, Jennifer Kesselheim; Danielle Olveczky

Panelists: Sherri-Ann Burnett-Bowie; Jennifer Potter; Karen Winkfield

Location: TMEC (room TBA)

Abstract: The healthcare community is working to promote a more multiculturally aware and tolerant climate for all stakeholders, including patients, families, staff members, faculty and students.  Numerous challenges remain: What do you do when a clinic patient asks to see a ‘white’ doctor?  Are you aware when the ‘silent curriculum’ shows up in your teaching?  Under the stress and pressure of patient care, have we ever made insensitive jokes to blow off steam -- or laughed upon hearing a colleague make an insensitive joke?  Prejudice and discrimination remain critical issues for all Americans, as painfully apparent in recent events taking place in Ferguson Missouri, New York City, Baltimore Maryland, and elsewhere.  As educators we have a duty to learn how to respond productively when we witness verbal and nonverbal expressions of unconscious bias with regard to a person’s perceived race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ability status, or other sociocultural characteristics. Mitigating the harm that can result from such biases is possible by increasing awareness of and examining our own attitudes and learning to speak up as bystanders. In this case-based workshop, participants will examine the challenges posed by the silent curriculum, using interactive exercises. We will explore narratives from our own experiences, including both faculty and student perspectives.  In exploring implicit biases in medical education through role modeling and dialogue, we intend to set the tone for a model community, one which makes such challenges explicit, with a commitment to reflection, mindful choices, and respectful discourse within our community of learners and educators.

Learning Objectives: After this workshop, participants will: 1. Explain how expressions of bias with regard to a person’s perceived race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ability status, or other sociocultural characteristics may manifest in the silent curriculum and how implicit but unintended messages may be internalized by learners; 2. Discuss strategies to make such issues explicit and a focus for shared reflection with learners; 3. Begin to apply the New Pathways Curriculum to model more culturally sensitive interpersonal interactions, thereby helping to mitigate adverse consequences of implicit bias on the learning environment and patient care.   

Suggested Video:

The Hidden Curriculum in Academic Medicine: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (AAMC AXIS Committee; 2015). Available at:

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Event Date: 
Monday, March 14, 2016 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm