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03-06-2019 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2019 Open Access

Perspectives on Medical Education 3/2019

An exploratory study on microaggressions in medical school: What are they and why should we care?

Perspectives on Medical Education > Uitgave 3/2019
Andre Espaillat, Danielle K. Panna, Dianne L. Goede, Matthew J. Gurka, Maureen A. Novak, Zareen Zaidi
Belangrijke opmerkingen
Editor’s Comment: Commentary by Javeed Sukhera: https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s40037-019-0518-1.



Microaggressions and their impact have been documented in minority college students; however, little is known about the experience of medical students. This study reports the prevalence and understanding of microaggressions among medical students at the University of Florida College of Medicine (UFCOM), while gaining insights into experiences of medical students dealing with microaggressions.


A nine-question survey was sent out to all medical students at the UFCOM in the spring of 2017 to understand their experiences with microaggressions. The authors used simple statistics and chi-test to analyze the demographic data and an inductive thematic qualitative analysis was performed on the open-ended responses to study medical students’ understanding of the term, experiences, and impact of microaggressions.


The response rate was 64% (n = 351/545). Fifty-four percent reported experiencing microaggressions, of those the majority were female students (73% compared with 51% among male students, p = 0.0003); for female students from minority backgrounds this was 68% and for white female students 76% (p = 0.2606). Microaggressions are more common in the second year of medical school (30%), followed by the third year (23%). Most students were able to recognize and identify microaggressions, but some denied the concept existed, attributing concerns about microaggressions to a culture promoting oversensitivity and political correctness. Students described microaggressions related to sexism; religion; skin colour; and ethnicity. Students described indifference, emotional reactions and denial of the event as coping mechanisms.


Microaggressions are prevalent on a day-to-day basis among medical students with female students from a minority background as well as white female students experiencing more microaggressions. Further research is needed to explore interventions to counter microaggressions in order to ensure a healthy learning environment.
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