Lecture – An Examination of Racism in Academic Medicine

Available with English captions.

Tracey M. Guthrie, MD, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University – Visiting Scholar Series

According to Guthrie, psychiatry has long perpetuated racism and continues to perpetuate racism.

In this lecture, Guthrie describes psychiatrists and other mental health professionals as having an unlearned, unreconciled, and unprocessed past when it comes to racism.

This history she is referring to is “not only American history and the glossed-over atrocities committed against people of color, but the history of psychiatry and our part in perpetuating racism.” She says that we either don’t want to address this issue of perpetuating racism or don’t know how to.

Watch this lecture to learn about:

  • Racism throughout the history of psychiatry
  • Racism in present-day academic psychiatry
  • Steps that you can personally take to eliminate racism in academic psychiatry

Guthrie references a group of black psychiatrists who demanded racial equity from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1969. She says that we are essentially having the same conversation today, more than 50 years later.

In a 2020 opinion piece, psychiatrist Ruth S. Shim, MD, MPH, cited structural racism as the reason why she left the APA. While the APA responded with an apology statement, Guthrie says that apologies aren’t enough.

She says that it’s on us to inspire change. We should stop being passive spectators on the sidelines and start being active agents of change.

Guthrie states that individual actions matter. Such actions could include helping teach someone how to review an article, helping someone get published, learning someone’s name, taking the time to understand someone’s personal goals, or bringing forth an idea for change.

“Power, privilege, and access can feed our narcissism or change someone’s life,” says Guthrie. “Let’s take off our cloak of benevolence that keeps us warm, safe, and dry. When we’re not in need of any of these things, when your position, finances, prestige already afford you these things, why don’t we take off our cloak and wrap it around somebody else?