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October 10, 2016

Quinn Capers IVCOLUMBUS, Ohio – Unconscious white race preference has been associated with discrimination in the education, criminal justice and healthcare systems and could impede the entry of African Americans into the medical profession, where they and other minorities remain underrepresented. 

Researchers at The Ohio State University College of Medicine recently published a study, which appears online in Academic Medicine, a journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, showing unconscious (or implicit) racial bias in the medical school admissions process.

“All 140 members of the Ohio State College of Medicine admissions committee took the black-white implicit association test (IAT) prior to the 2012-2013 cycle and results were collated by gender and student versus faculty status,” said Dr. Quinn Capers IV, associate dean for admissions and lead author of the study. 

Seventy-one percent of the members took a survey at the end of the cycle to record their impressions of their individual results and the impact of the IAT on the admissions process.

All groups – men, women, students and faculty – displayed significant levels of implicit or unconscious white race preference, with men and faculty reporting the largest bias measures. Sixty-seven percent of the survey respondents thought the IAT might be helpful in reducing bias, forty-eight percent were conscious of their individual results when interviewing candidates in the next cycle and twenty-one percent indicated that their individual IAT results impacted their admissions decisions in the subsequent cycle. 

“The next class of medical students that were enrolled following the IAT exercise was the most diverse in our College of Medicine’s history, at that time,” Capers said.

“The methodology provides a framework that could be replicated across graduate medical education programs and health professions admissions to enhance diversity yield,” said Dr. Leon McDougle, chief diversity officer of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and study researcher.

Capers and colleagues noted next steps include preceding and following the IAT with more robust reflection and education on unconscious bias and specific training to neutralize it, and would like to see an examination of bias at all levels of academic medicine.

Others involved in the study were Dr. Daniel Clinchot, also from Ohio State, and Dr. Anthony Greenwald, professor of psychology at the University of Washington.

Among nearly 140 schools, Ohio State’s College of Medicine is tied for ninth place with the highest number of African-American students for the 2015-16 school year, with 67 African-American students in a total enrollment of 756, according to U.S. News & World Report.

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Contact: Sherri Kirk, Wexner Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737, or Sherri.Kirk@osumc.edu.