Leveraging Clerkship Experiences to Address Segregated Care: A Survey-Based Approach to Student-Led Advocacy

Rachel Wilkinson, Zina Huxley-Reicher, G. W.Conner Fox, Alec Feuerbach, Michelle Tong, James Blum, Akila Pai, Reena Karani, David Muller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phenomenon: Many academic medical centers (AMCs) have a history of separating patients on the basis of insurance status. In New York State, where Black and Latino patients are more than twice as likely to have Medicaid as white patients, this practice leads to de facto racial segregation in healthcare. Emerging evidence suggests that this segregation of care is detrimental to both patient care and medical education. Medical students are uniquely positioned to be change makers in this space but face significant barriers to speaking out about these disparities and successfully advocating for institutional change. Approach: The authors designed, piloted, and distributed a 16-item survey on segregated care to third-year medical students at a large academic medical center in New York City. Students were asked both open- and close-ended questions about witnessing separation and differences in patient care on the basis of insurance during their clinical rotations. The survey was shared with 140 students in March 2019 with a response rate of 46.4% (n = 65). Preliminary findings were presented to school and hospital administrators. Findings: More than half of survey respondents reported witnessing separation of patient care or differences in patient care on the basis of insurance (56.3%, n = 36 and 51.6%, n = 33 respectively). Many students reported that these experiences contributed to cynicism and burnout. The authors leveraged these results to advocate for quality improvement measures. In Ob-Gyn, department leadership launched a clinical transformation taskforce and recruited a new Vice Chair of Clinical Transformation/Chief Patient Experience Officer, whose role includes addressing segregated care and disparities in health outcomes. The hospital committed to establishing integrated practices in new clinical spaces and launching a similar survey among house staff. Insights: Many medical students experience and participate in segregated care during their clerkships and this has the potential to impact their education. Medical students are well-positioned to recognize segregated care across health systems and leverage their experiences for advocacy. A survey-based approach can be a powerful tool enabling students to collect these experiences to address segregated care and other health equity issues.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTeaching and Learning in Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Racial bias
  • advocacy
  • education
  • health disparities


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