College of Life Sciences

Student perspective of racial inclusion in medical school exams: an SSC project

Sethara Alwis, Leicester Medical School

Sethara Alwis with her SSC posterI had decided to do my Student Selected Component (SSC) with MedRACE. Having joined MedRACE at the start of my third year, I was able to contribute to different projects. The SSC facilitated this contribution on a larger scale!

Initially, I looked at what previous students had decided to do their projects on. I had just completed my third year Written and OSCE examinations. After deliberating with Professor Williams and Dr Sayeed (the staff co-chairs), we decided it would be a good idea to base my SSC on the Current Perspective of Racial Inclusion in Medical School Exams. I collected data in the form of interviews, surveys, and data analysis.

The interviews I conducted were related to the data from the National Student Survey. This is a survey that all final year medics complete across The UK to assess satisfaction with the Medical degree. The interviews signified that the questions asked in the survey were too subjective. Additionally, the Final Year students expressed that the data ignored individual experiences as any person of colour was automatically classed into the one category of BAME. I cannot help agree that “we don’t have the exact same culture, we don’t have the exact same experiences”. The survey relayed that many students experienced an unconscious bias from OSCE examiners. Students believed that the Written exam is more racially inclusive as it is easier to remain anonymous. Using this data, I created a poster to present during one of our University Days. I achieved third prize for the poster presentations.

Sethara Alwis presenting her SSC poster to studentsDuring the presentation, a member of the Administrative team reached out to me. I was invited to a meeting with various professors, members of the Administrative team, and some Head of Years to discuss the OSCEs. I presented my poster at this meeting as well, gave my opinions on the current situation, and suggested improvements. My poster highlighted that one of the most pressing issues was the lack of diverse representation in the patient simulator population. The reasons for this are multi-faceted: the simulators were not representative of Leicester’s proudly diverse population; Some students of colour have shared that they felt they had to exert extra effort to present themselves professionally compared to their White peers, in order to avoid possible unfair judgement. At some OSCE stations, patient simulators can award marks themselves and to a Medical Student, every point counts!

As a result, it was decided that I would help the Admin team recruit patient simulators for the OSCEs. Previous simulators tended to be majority Caucasian and within the age range of 50-60 years old. Therefore, the aim of this project was to recruit a more racially diverse population of a younger age group. I advertised the project during one of the MedRACE monthly meetings and I was able to gather a small team. We used trusty Canva to create the poster. It was important to collaborate with the Admin team regarding all sorts of details from the specification of patient simulator job roles to the necessary representative colours. After numerous drafts, we were able to settle on a poster that everyone was happy with. These posters were distributed across Leicester. My colleague sent our team a picture of a poster she found in Northampton! So I am confident in saying our poster went far and wide.Recruitment poster for patient simulators

Research that leads to change

I am proud to say that we had 60 applicants responding to our poster and they fit the criteria specified for a more diverse patient simulator population. When I had initially decided to collaborate with MedRACE for my SSC, I had not imagined that I would be part of important meetings or win presentation prizes. Most of all, I did not imagine that I would encourage diversity in our Medical School’s official exams. I am glad I could help make some difference!

May 2024

Read Sethara's SSC poster (PDF, 299kb)

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