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The hidden curriculum in undergraduate medical education: qualitative study of medical students' perceptions of teaching

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7469.770 (Published 30 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:770

Rapid Response:

Valuing diversity in academic medicine.

Dear Editor,

I was very interested to read the recent article by Lempp and Seale
(1) - which in light of a medical student survey, proposed changes to the
‘hidden’ undergraduate medical curriculum. Although, I believe that many
of their views are perceptive and added to the debate on medical
education, others are less so.

In particular, I would like to draw their attention to the
observation that women and ethnic minority doctors involved in education
were poorly-represented in terms of being viewed as role models by medical
students. Only 2/46 of the named role models were ‘non-white’, in spite
of 14/36 surveyed students being ‘non-white’. Likewise 27/46 of the role
models were males, and 19/46 were females. One may infer from the article
that white, male teachers are more likely to be perceived as role models
by medical undergraduates- regardless of their own ethnic backgrounds.

Are women and ‘non-white’ teachers inherently less inspirational than
their white, male counterparts? Personally, I have my doubts. What the
article explicitly failed to do, was to provide information on the gender
and ethnic make-up of the medical teachers that the student cohort may
have come into contact with during their training. My guess is that women
and ethnic minority teachers formed a disproportionately small number of
the medical educationalists, and thus this finding is hardly surprising.
The fact that women and ethnic minorities are under-represented in
academic medicine (of which teaching forms a major part) is not new, and
is well borne out by other notable articles(2,3).

As a ‘non-white’ medical teacher, I found this observation
potentially misleading. I would like to ask the authors to provide
further information and a more rigorous analysis of their findings- prior
to inferring value judgements on the perceived worth of different groups
of teachers.

Funding: None

Competing interests: None

References:

1 Lempp H, Seale C. The hidden curriculum in undergraduate medical
education. BMJ 2004; 329:770-3.

2 Reichenbach L, Brown H. Gender and academic medicine: impacts on
the health workforce. BMJ 2004; 329: 792-5.

3 Fang D, Moy E, Colburn L, Hurley J. Racial and Ethnic Disparities
in Faculty Promotion in Academic Medicine. JAMA 2000; 284:1085-1092.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

11 October 2004
Hany George El-Sayeh
Honorary Lecturer in Psychiatry
Academic Unit of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, 15 Hyde Terrace, Leeds, LS2 9LT