Toward the Abolition of Biological Race in Medicine

Transforming Clinical Education, Research, and Practice

Publication

May 13, 2020

cover of the race in medicine report

Click to download a PDF of this report.

Coauthored by Noor Chadha, Bernadette Lim, Madeleine Kane, and Brenly Rowland

(
This report is also available on the website of the Institute for Healing and Justice in Medicine)

The use of biological race in medicine is an unchallenged, outdated norm throughout clinical education, research, and practice. Medicine largely frames racial health disparities in terms of biological difference and individual behavior, despite evidence that social and structural factors generate and perpetuate most health issues. As a result, medicine fails to address racism and its health consequences. This is bad and irresponsible science.

Racism—a structure and ideology that oppresses and limits resources to minority groups—is rarely discussed in clinical health and the health sciences as a meaningful determinant of health outcomes. Thus, racial health disparities are often wrongly attributed to biology and physiology of racial groups rather than the stratified socioeconomic opportunities that are available. 

As medical students and graduate student researchers, we witness these harms every day in our textbooks, classrooms, clinics, and communities. We envision a world where the social construct of race is not conflated with biology and the health consequences of racism are acknowledged, addressed, and cared for in all their forms.

Acknowledgments

Interdisciplinary faculty editors and advisors

  • Tina Sacks, PhD
  • Osagie Obasogie, JD, PhD
  • Amy Garlin, MD
  • Monica Hahn, MD, MS, MPH
  • Seth Holmes, MD, PhD

Interdisciplinary cosponsors

  1. University of California, Berkeley—Othering & Belonging Institute
  2. University of California, Berkeley—Center for Race & Gender Studies

Peer editors and peer contributors for our initial drafts

  • Rachel Bigley 
  • James Cevallos
  • Nicole Carvajal
  • Willow Frye 
  • Nazineen Kandahari
  • Interpreet Kaur
  • Aminta Kouyate
  • Sharada Narayan 
  • Luke Silverman-Lloyd
  • Scott Swartz
  • Nathan Swetlitz    
  • Shreya Thatai
  • Kay Walker

Contents

  1. Why We Wrote This
  2. Executive Summary
  3. Introduction
  4. Section 1: Racism, Not Race, Causes Health Disparities
  5. Section 2: Cranial Capacities to Eugenics: How Medicine and Health Sciences Biologize Race
  6. Section 3: Race-Based Medicine in Diagnosis and Treatment
  7. Section 4: Looking Ahead
  8. Bibliography
  9. Appendix: For Further Reading