Medical schools must include BAME representation in clinical teaching

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We call on the GMC to pass guidance requiring that course material in all medical schools must include ethnically diverse examples of case presentations - especially in clinically relevant instances where disease presentation differs between white and black and minority ethnic (BAME) patients. Clinical descriptions such as erythematous, pallor and rubor are not typical of all patients and students are often not taught otherwise. This is just one example. Medical teaching should be representative of the society we live in. The duty to deliver the highest quality of care extends to all members of the public and if medical education does not actively prepare students for this, this is inconsistent with such values. It is important that BAME patients are acknowledged consistently throughout teaching and not just in highly specific case studies.

White normativity in medical teaching means that medical students are often unprepared in recognising signs of certain diseases in BAME patients that do not present in the same way as white patients and/or are not as clinically obvious. It also means that BAME students do not feel represented and included in their studies. Given that most medical schools only have a small proportion of BAME students (especially black students,) the lack of recognition of BAME patients in medical studies can feel increasingly isolating.

A pertinent example is the rash in children with meningococcemia, which is usually less visible in dark-skinned people. The teaching of the importance of- and often reliance on-  this sign as a diagnostic indicator of meningitis can lead to delays in diagnosis in dark-skinned people, with often fatal consequences.

There are countless other examples, such as in haematology, cardiology and many other aspects of medical care which all need to see an improvement in representation in teaching. We must be taught presentation and normality in all patients.

Representation is important in all fields and it is vital in medicine, so that future doctors can provide the same high level of care to all patients and in doing so, work to bridge racial disparities in the medical field. Representation can quite literally save lives.