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Social Justice Curriculum

We strongly believe that part of being effective physicians is understanding the profound effect that implicit bias and explicit systemic discrimination have in the causation of health care disparities. We strive to become practitioners who provide care that reduces these disparities both on the individual patient level as well as in the care of our population as a whole.

We are continuously working to incorporate these topics into our curriculum throughout the three years of our residents’ educational experience, with particular focus on the following:

  • Race and Medicine
  • Women and Medicine
  • LGBTQ and Medicine
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Resident Advocacy


We are training our residents to be able to recognize the cognitive and implicit biases that affect individual practice, as well as structural biases that pervade throughout medicine and our American society, impacting minority groups' access to and interactions with the health are system. We are working on understanding social determinants of health in application to clinical practice, as well as developing the needed competencies to provide more inclusive care. More recently, due to the increasing visibility of the systemic racism across the country in 2020, we are focusing on how race in particular has been poorly, falsely, and unethically utilized in medical research.

Formal conferences: We are incorporating talks and discussion about cognitive biases and practicing competent and inclusive medicine into our regularly scheduled conferences. Recent examples:

  • Workshop discussing Structural Racism at a residency-wide retreat
  • Primary Care Didactic on Transgender Health
  • Morning Conference titled “Impact of Skin Color on Clinical Diagnosis”
  • Upcoming Grand Rounds by Dr. Edwin Lindo, creator of “The Praxis” podcast

Incorporation into day-to-day training: Our continuity clinic at Eastgate Public Health provides regular opportunities to learn about – and actively combat - the health disparities faced by uninsured and undocumented patients. Attendings on the wards are also encouraged to engage in “Equity Pauses,” where they ask the team to pause and consider how implicit bias and structural racism may be influencing patient care.

Opportunities for residents outside of the program: We are working on providing opportunities outside of residency to be able to learn more and become further involved in advocacy. Recent initiatives:

  • We developed a lending library, featuring books from Estalita’s Library, including How to Be An Antiracist and The Person You Mean to Be
  • In April 2020, the program purchased tickets for all residents to attend a Capstone talk by Ibram X Kendi, author of How to Be An Antiracist
  • As a class gift, our graduating senior classes raise money for a charitable cause of their choice. The class of 2020 raised funds for Black Lives Matter Seattle, and the class of 2021 raised money for Asian Counseling and Referral Service.
  • Our Social Justice Committee is involved in hospital-wide work to combat structural racism from our healthcare system, including removal of race as a factor in calculating eGFR in our EMR

Creating a Safe Space for Dialogue

At Virginia Mason, the team members throughout our hospital system came together and created the Momentum belonging group to create protected time and space for all members of our hospital to be able to come together and engage in dialogue about racial equity, spanning from its impacts on our work within the hospital, to our life experiences in society at large.