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Medical students collaborate to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in healthcare

Summer research studentships to allow students to pursue research on a pressing issue in healthcare.

Medical students look at EDI
Medical students, from left, Gabriele Jagelaviciute, Ishita Aggarwal, and Simran Sandhu participated in summer research studentships that looked at ways to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in healthcare.

Providing medical students an excellent education is a point of pride for the Faculty of Health Sciences and Queen’s University. In a contemporary context, providing quality education requires more than access to peer-reviewed literature and experienced instructors. Medical students must develop cultural awareness and anti-discriminatory practices.

Each year, the School of Medicine offers several summer research studentships to allow students to pursue research on a pressing issue in healthcare. This year, three of these students led research projects with the intention of advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) within medical education and the healthcare system.

Simran Sandhu and Ishita Aggarwal are investigating the ways in which EDI can be more effectively implemented in medical training, while Gabriele Jagelaviciute is analyzing the role of gender on the clinical practice of emergency medicine in Canada.

While the students were drawn to two different projects, their choice to pursue themes around EDI was personal.

“I’ve seen firsthand how gender-based bias and discrimination continue to affect the career choice, development, promotion, and wellbeing of female trainees and physicians,” says Jagelaviciute. “I only hope that my findings will make an impact on students tackling inequity while pursuing an already challenging vocation.”

All three students agree that EDI needs to be more than just supplementary in healthcare.

“In the future, we're going to be treating diverse populations and it's important that our education reflects that so that we're prepared to provide the best possible care that we can,” says Aggarwal.

Exposing medical students to EDI and anti-oppression practices from the beginning of their training allows them to become more compassionate, safe and informed healthcare providers and colleagues.

“Incorporating EDI into our education helps us develop confidence in addressing the world and our positions in it,” says Sandhu. “Our profession directly impacts the livelihoods of our patients; it’s important that we understand how we as future physicians can perpetuate inequity when we are ignorant of those unlike ourselves.”

Sandhu, Aggarwal, and Jagelaviciute agree that the opportunity to undertake research projects supervised by their professors has challenged them to think more critically while also allowing them to take agency and enact positive change even before they begin their careers as clinicians.

“This project has made me realize that even as a racialized person myself, I too have so much to learn and improve upon,” says Sandhu.

Though their projects remain works in progress, the students are eager to begin evolving health sciences curriculum with each new discovery and innovation that comes along the way.

“We look forwarding to surveying and interviewing our peers and using their feedback to devise actionable ways of applying EDI into our curriculum” says Aggarwal.

The students are grateful for such a meaningful research opportunity during their studies and look forward to helping their peers and future colleagues become better informed healthcare providers.

“This is a crucial project to engage in, and we can’t wait to see where it leads us,” Aggarwal says.

“It has been incredibly reassuring to feel seen, heard, and valued amongst my classmates and professors. I only hope we can make the same true for all students,” Jagelaviciute adds.