Interrupting Microaggressions in Health Care Settings: A Guide for Teaching Medical Students

Rhonda Graves Acholonu, Tiffany E. Cook, Robert O. Roswell, Richard E. Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Introduction: Microaggressions are connected to broader conceptualizations of the impact of implicit bias and systems of inequity. The body of evidence supporting the need for more-open discussions in medical education about race, racism, and their impact on health disparities continues to grow. Some have advocated for the importance of bringing anti-racist pedagogy into medical education curricula, which involves explicitly attempting to move beyond people's comfort zones and acknowledging that discomfort can be a catalyst for growth. To discuss the intent and impact of microaggressions in health care settings and how we might go about responding to them, we developed a workshop for third-year undergraduate medical students within a longitudinal undergraduate medical education diversity and inclusion curriculum. Methods: This workshop occurred during a regularly scheduled clerkship intersession during the 2016-2017 academic year for third-year undergraduate medical students (N = 154). Prior to the workshop, the students were asked to anonymously submit critical incident reports on any microaggressions experienced or witnessed to develop case studies for problem-based learning. Teaching modalities included lecture, problem-based learning with case studies, pair and share, and facilitated small- and large-group debriefs. Results: The session was evaluated using a 4-point Likert scale to assess students' comfort in learning about the information presented. Ninety-eight percent felt confident in identifying microaggressions, and 85% felt confident in interrupting microaggressions when they occur. Discussion: This personalized workshop exposes students to microaggressions personally experienced by colleagues with an attempt to interrupt them using empathy, awareness, and communication techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10969
Number of pages1
JournalMedEdPORTAL : the journal of teaching and learning resources
StatePublished - Jul 31 2020


  • Anti-racism
  • Bias
  • Communication Skills
  • Cultural Competence
  • Diversity
  • Empathy
  • Health Disparities
  • Health Equity
  • Inclusion
  • Microaggressions
  • Racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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