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Medical Students Show Racial, Cultural Patient Preference

Last Updated: September 07, 2011.

Medical students may have a preferential bias toward whites and wealthier patients, but this does not appear to influence their clinical decision making or physician-patient interactions, according to a study published in the Sept. 7 medical education-themed issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Medical students may have a preferential bias toward whites and wealthier patients, but this does not appear to influence their clinical decision making or physician-patient interactions, according to a study published in the Sept. 7 medical education-themed issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Adil H. Haider, M.D., M.P.H., of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues administered a Web-based survey that included the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to 211 first-year medical students to estimate their unconscious race and social bias and study its association with clinical assessments or decision making.

Of the 202 students who finished the survey, the researchers found that 140 (69 percent) showed an implicit preference for whites, and 174 (86 percent) showed a preference for people in the upper class. Clinical assessments, however, did not appear to be swayed by patient race or occupation.

"The majority of first-year medical students at a single school had IAT scores consistent with implicit preference for white persons and possibly for those in the upper class. However, overall vignette-based clinical assessments were not associated with patient race or occupation, and no association existed between implicit preferences and the assessments," the authors write.

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