Queen’s medical students talk EDII research

‘We are showing the need through numbers’

EDII work plays a part in shifting attitudes in medicine.  

Two Queen’s medical students are researching equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII) in medical school educational curricula in a student research initiative funded by the Faculty of Health Sciences.  

Researchers Simran Sandhu and Ishita Aggarwal, both Med ’23, believe EDII integration in medicine is crucial for serving Canada’s diverse population.

“Queen’s School of Medicine has begun integrating anti-oppression, EDII over all four years [of the undergrad Health Sciences program],” Sandhu said in an interview with The Journal.

“Our research, which is still ongoing and not complete, focuses on evaluating the current curriculum and looking at the content and delivery.”  

Sandhu says the research uses quantitative and qualitative metrics to measure learning outcomes. 

“There is a survey component, and the second half includes an evaluation of all of the learning events to quantify the number of anti-oppression, EDII learning events offered over all four years,” Sandhu said. 

“Canada is a very diverse country, thankfully. Our patient populations are diverse, and it's important that we recognize that diversity and include it as a component of our education,” Aggarwal said in an interview with The Journal.

Aggarwal and Sandhu said the social determinants of health care are heavily tied to inequities that exist in the healthcare system.

The social determinants of health are a framework academics use to understand the influence of external factors on an individual’s health and wellness.  

“The majority of negative health outcomes are because of the social determinants of health, and these are tied to systemic barriers that exist for marginalized people,” Aggarwal explained. 

The researchers said there’s a need to shift the culture in medicine.

“It’s a culture where you as a colleague or learner may also face discrimination if you identify as part of a marginalized population,” Sandhu said. 

“We want colleagues to feel empowered to identify situations where they may need to step in.”

Sandhu said the way Queen’s has taught EDII principles has shifted over time and continues to shift. 

“Previously, most of the EDII and anti-oppression content was centred around a course called MEDS 117 [...] This course still exists and constantly undergoes revision, but now Queen’s has moved to an integrated model where these themes are continued through all years of medical school,” Sandhu said. 

READ MORE: Senate repeals 1918 ‘colour ban’ on Black medical students 

In speaking to previous issues like Queen’s Medical School’s historic ban on Black students, Aggarwal and Sandhu expressed hope that change is coming. 

“Queen’s Medical School has a tumultuous history, I think it's wonderful that at least they have acknowledged that, but this is only the first step,” Aggarwal said. 

“I think there is more interest in the faculty to move towards a more equitable curriculum,”

Sandhu added that, along with acknowledgement, a strong backing through data is needed to create actionable change. 

“When we have this data and evidence to support changes, it's difficult for any faculty to say, ‘we don’t see the need.’ We are showing the need through numbers and funding they have supported,” Sandhu said.  

Aggarwal added that this renewed focus on EDII has also allowed marginalized communities to be compensated for the work they do towards equity.

“Our research is funded by an EDII summer studentship. It's the first time the faculty has made this available”  

On how individuals can be a part of this change, Aggarwal said self-reflection and understanding perspective internal biases are crucial to changing one’s own thinking. 

“The first step to understand and recognize is that we have our own backgrounds full of biases [...] Even though both of us [Sandhu and Aggarwal] are quite interested in EDII work, there is a lot we don’t know,” Aggarwal said.

“It is so important to be open to accepting and learning and accepting constructive criticism.”

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