RP401 – Session 1.4: Bias

Session Readings



By the end of the small group session on “Bias”, residents will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Identify and describe one or more situations in which they recognized their own bias towards or against one or more patients for whom they cared during their residency rotations.
  2. Explore the sources of this bias.
  3. Examine the impact this bias had on the way they interacted with and cared for this and other patients during the residency rotations.
  4. Develop a plan for working through this bias and other biases as they identify them in the future.


 “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” ― Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost

Racism. Sexism. Ageism. Religionism. Culturalism. These represent only a handful of the many biases each of us has to one extent or another. Recognizing our biases and examining the impact they have on our interaction with patients is important for all healthcare providers, but especially so for military physicians who care for a community composed of people from nearly every race, religion, gender, age, and from a wide array of cultures. Reflecting on how these biases have impacted the way we have interacted with and treated our patients in the past is the key first step towards becoming more self-aware of our biases and mitigating their negative implications.


Reflect on one or more encounter(s) during your residency in which you recognized that you had a bias towards or against one or more of your patients for whom you cared and consider how it impacted the way you interacted with and treated your patient. Your bias might be for or against those who are old or young, are of a given race, religion, ethnicity, military community, military service, among others.  Prepare in advance and come to the small group discussion with notes that will allow you to:

  1. Describe the situation. Set the stage and be specific to help the reader more fully appreciate the specifics of the situation.
  2. Consider and describe the source(s) of your bias. This may include
    1. your own experiences
    2. how you perceive the trait/characteristic against which you have a bias to be viewed in the family/community in which you grew up
    3. how you perceive the trait/characteristic against which you have a bias to be viewed in the medical and/or military community
    4. your beliefs and values
  3. Describe whether you first identified this bias in the moment (while you were interacting with your patient) or after the moment, what brought it to your attention, and what you did in response to this awareness.
  4. Analyze how your bias impacted your actions, including its impact on patient communication and patient care and how it might impact your actions in the future.
  5. Develop a plan for dealing with this and other biases as you become aware of them in the future.
Washington-PostFor People with Disabilities, Doctors Are Not Always Healers by Leana S. Wen Some of the hardest (and most valuable lessons) come during internship year. Such was the case for Dr. Leanna Wen, who faced her fears about medical discrimination when caring for the patient in ER bed #3.
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academic-medicine-logoAre medical students aware of their anti-obesity bias? Medical students have a significant implicit anti-fat bias and two-thirds of those with this bias are unaware it exists. How might this impact the care they, and others in the healthcare community, deliver?
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TEDxCan prejudice ever be a good thing? by Paul Bloom We often think of bias and prejudice as rooted in ignorance. But as psychologist Paul Bloom seeks to show, prejudice is often natural, rational ... even moral. The key, says Bloom, is to understand how our own biases work — so we can take control when they go wrong.
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unnamedDoctors Guilty Of Ageism? Providers' biases and assumptions about the elderly impact the care they receive, often for the worse. Can senior citizen mentors change this?
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thisibelieveprojectI Am a Racist and So Are You We can choose to believe that we are not racist...or we can be honest with ourselves.
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