I conducted one anonymous survey at the start of the semester before most people had completed the first discussion assignment. We had 435 responses for that survey (including a number of students who ended up dropping the course in the first few weeks). I call this the “pre-survey” in the figures below.

The second survey was given after the due date for the last discussion assignment. There were 331 responses. Even though the link for the survey was included in their homework, students probably realized there was no consequence to not completing the survey and that’s why we had fewer responses. Data from the first and second surveys were independent (not paired), so there’s no way to know who chose to fill out the second survey and if that biased the data.

Students’ thoughts on the assignment

In the pre-survey, I asked students how they felt about discussing medical racism in the course and it was a select all question. Most students said they were excited and some were nervous, but not too many were stressed out about the assignments.

In the post-survey, we asked students what they thought about us including medical racism discussions in a human physiology course. Again, it was a select all question. Most students reported enjoying the assignment and that they thought it was an important topic to cover.

Changes in understanding about race and medicine

I gave students a list of facts and asked them to identify which ones were examples of medical racism (they all are). This same question was on the pre- and post-survey, so we can investigate if there was a change in the class as a whole. The biggest changes we see are for the race correction for kidney function and the medication for heart disease. These were both topics we covered in the assignments, so it makes sense that students would now understand that those are examples of medical racism. The example with schizophrenia is interesting, because there’s no reason to think that would be a biological difference, but only 60% of the students identified that as an example of medical racism. So some students are struggling to apply what they have learned to new examples.

I also asked students to say whether they agreed with different statements related to race and physiology. By the end of the semester most students disagreed that there are genetic and physiological differences between different races. More students agreed that race is a sociopolitical category and has no biological basis. Really, if that’s all they remember from my course, I think the effort spent on this assignment will have been worth it.