Addressing microaggressions in racially charged patient-provider interactions: A pilot randomized trial




Kanter, Jonathan
Rosen, Daniel C.
Manbeck, Katherine
Branstetter, Heather M. L.
Kuczynski, Adam

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BMC Medical Education


Background Racial bias in medical care is a significant public health issue, with increased focus on microaggressions and the quality of patient-provider interactions. Innovations in training interventions are needed to decrease microaggressions and improve provider communication and rapport with patients of color during medical encounters.

Methods This paper presents a pilot randomized trial of an innovative clinical workshop that employed a theoretical model from social and contextual behavioral sciences. The intervention specifically aimed to decrease providers’ likelihood of expressing biases and negative stereotypes when interacting with patients of color in racially charged moments, such as when patients discuss past incidents of discrimination. Workshop exercises were informed by research on the importance of mindfulness and interracial contact involving reciprocal exchanges of vulnerability and responsiveness. Twenty-five medical student and recent graduate participants were randomized to a workshop intervention or no intervention. Outcomes were measured via provider self-report and observed changes in targeted provider behaviors. Specifically, two independent, blind teams of coders assessed provider emotional rapport and responsiveness during simulated interracial patient encounters with standardized Black patients who presented specific racial challenges to participants.

Results Greater improvements in observed emotional rapport and responsiveness (indexing fewer microaggressions), improved self-reported explicit attitudes toward minoritized groups, and improved self-reported working alliance and closeness with the Black standardized patients were observed and reported by intervention participants.

Conclusions Medical providers may be more likely to exhibit bias with patients of color in specific racially charged moments during medical encounters. This small-sample pilot study suggests that interventions that directly intervene to help providers improve responding in these moments by incorporating mindfulness and interracial contact may be beneficial in reducing racial health disparities.



pilot, microaggressions, racial



Attribution 4.0 International


Kanter, J.W., Rosen, D.C., Manbeck, K.E. et al. Addressing microaggressions in racially charged patient-provider interactions: a pilot randomized trial. BMC Med Educ 20, 88 (2020)