Home > Research > Activities > Decolonising Medical Education and Medical Soci...
View graph of relations

Decolonising Medical Education and Medical Sociology

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Background: There is rising interest in decolonising higher education, and specifically medical education. Medical Sociologists are well-positioned to support this work.
Summary of Work: The author is currently leading work to instate anti-racist and decolonial practice across the curriculum at Lancaster Medical School. This has included investigation and reporting on students experiences and witnessing of racial harassment during their degree, the introduction of new teaching within and beyond the SBS, and redesigning report and support policy and procedures for all forms of discrimination.
Discussion and Conclusions: Writing from my experiences of leading this work, I outline key areas for action that SBS scholars can contribute to. First, we can provide compulsory teaching for students, and professional development for staff, on the history of race and racism in health and medicine, specifically how ‘race’ as an arbitrary social classification emerged from colonial science.
This work will inevitably give rise to tensions that require careful interdisciplinary collaboration. For example, our students are simultaneously taught about the myth of race and to prescribe different medications according to skin colour, e.g. for hypertension. We can support our students to think more critically of the paucity of good research on the relationship between ‘race’ and health as an example of structural racism. Further, we can support teaching in other disciplines to identify where racialisation is present, and/or where racialised minorities are excluded, especially where colleagues may not have a nuanced understanding race and racialisation, or when clinical guidelines are behind “the science”. In this way, medical sociologists can exploit the unique interdisciplinary opportunity medical education offers to improve healthcare for racially minoritized patients / clinicians through decolonisation and anti-racist practice in teaching and research.
However, this work positions medical sociology as always already decolonised, and so alongside the above, there is impetus for medical sociologists to explore the colonial legacies of their own discipline, following the examples of Bhambra’s (2014) and Meghji’s (2020) work on decolonising Sociology.
Take-home Messages: Sociologists are well-positioned to lead the project of decolonising medical education. However, medical sociology as a discipline is also interconnected with histories and practices of colonialism, and thus also requires decolonising. Thus, sociologists working in medical schools should not only support change to practice in other disciplines (e.g. dermatology / clinical skills / pharmacology), but also decolonise medical sociology.

Event (Conference)

TitleBehavioural and Social Sciences Teaching in Medical Education Conference 2021
Abbreviated titleBeSST 2021
Degree of recognitionInternational event