A major British medical school is leading the drive to eliminate what it calls "inherent racism" in the way doctors are trained in the UK.
The University of Bristol Medical School says urgent action is needed to examine why teaching predominantly focuses on how illnesses affect white people above all other sections of the population.
It comes after students pushed for reform, saying gaps in their training left them ill-prepared to treat ethnic minority patients – potentially compromising patient safety.
Hundreds of other UK medical students have signed petitions demanding teaching that better reflects the diversity of the country.
The Medical School Council (led by the heads of UK medical schools) and the regulator, the General Medical Council, say they are putting plans in place to improve the situation.
A number of diseases manifest differently depending on skin tone, but too little attention is given to this in training, according to Dr Joseph Hartland, who is helping to lead changes at the University of Bristol Medical School.
"Historically medical education was designed and written by white middle-class men, and so there is an inherent racism in medicine that means it exists to serve white patients above all others," he said .
"When patients are short of breath, for example, students are often taught to look out for a constellation of signs – including a blue tinge to the lips or fingertips – to help judge how severely ill someone is, but these signs can look different on darker skin."
"Essentially we are teaching students how to recognise a life-or-death clinical sign largely in white people, and not acknowledging these differences may be dangerous," said Dr Hartland.
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Source: BBC News, 17 August 2020