Queen’s asks: Who gets to be a doctor?

School of medicine introducing mandatory education about 1918 colour ban

Image supplied by: Journal File photo
Mandatory education will begin in October.

This October, 107 first-year medical students will spend three hours learning about the racist history of Queen’s School of Medicine. 

‘Who gets to be a doctor?’ is a module the Queen’s School of Medicine is integrating into one of its required first-year courses, Introduction to Professional Roles. 

After Edward Thomas, current associate director of the MacDonald Institute, presented the University’s Senate with historical information about a 1918 colour ban that prohibited Black medical students from being admitted to the School of Medicine last year, the Commission on Black Medical (CBM) students was established.

The CBM promised to educate first-year medical students about the effects of the racist policy. 

Jenna Healey, Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine, told The Journal the module will explore both past and present effects the colour ban has had on both Queen’s as an institution and on its students.

“Sometimes you just learned something that happened in the past, and you can be like, well, that happened a long time ago and it has no bearing on what’s happening now,” Healey said. “When I teach history, I want to be very conscious of making that connection to the present explicit.”

Drawing on Thomas’ research, Healey has been working with Dr. Mala Jonejo, chair of the Commission, to develop the modules over the past eight months.

Approved in June, Healey said the first online hour of the module will review the 1918 colour ban itself, as well as the political context during that time at Queen’s. The following day, there will be a two-hour class session. 

During the first hour, Healey said students will examine four case studies about exclusions in medical admissions. The second hour will focus on current admissions policies at medical schools in Ontario.

“We really wanted to start brainstorming and thinking through various strategies that can be used to further diversify medical education,” Healey said.

She added students will be required to write a personal reflection following completion of the module. 

According to Healey, the first-year students are not completing the modules until the end of October to avoid feelings of dismay about the profession so early in the semester. 

“We wanted them to be forward-looking,” she said. 

While the module is mandatory for first-year medical students, upper-year students are not required to undergo the program because they have already completed the Introduction to Professional Roles course.

Healey said the School of Medicine will be hosting a public symposium in the spring that will take a “similar approach” to providing all students or community members with educational information about the effects of the 1918 colour ban.  

“Queen’s is always very proud of the accomplishments of its alumni,” Healey said. “By removing the students they were asking to leave, our community’s poorer for it.”


black students, Queen's School of Medicine

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