This qualitative study of 25 Asian American medical students found that participants described 5 major themes: invisibility as racial aggression, visibility and racial aggression, absence of the Asian American experience in medical school, ignored while seeking support, and envisioning the future.
This qualitative study of interviews with Asian American medical students describes major themes of experiences with anti-Asian racism and discrimination.
Asian American physicians have experienced a dual pandemic of racism and COVID-19 since 2020; understanding how racism has affected the learning environment of Asian American medical students is necessary to inform strategies to promoting a more inclusive medical school environment and a diverse and inclusive workforce. While prior research has explored the influence of anti-Asian racism on the experiences of Asian American health care workers, to our knowledge there are no studies investigating how racism has impacted the training experiences of Asian American medical students.
To characterize how Asian American medical students have experienced anti-Asian racism in a medical school learning environment.
This qualitative study included online video interviews of Asian American medical students performed between July 29, 2021, and August 22, 2022. Eligible participants were recruited through the Asian Pacific American Medical Students Association and snowball sampling, and the sample represented a disaggregated population of Asian Americans and all 4 medical school years.
Among 25 participants, Asian ethnicities included 8 Chinese American (32%), 5 Korean American (20%), 5 Indian American (20%), 3 Vietnamese American (12%), 2 Filipino American (8%), and 1 (4%) each Nepalese, Pakistani, and Desi American; 16 (64%) were female. Participants described 5 major themes concerning their experience with discrimination: (1) invisibility as racial aggression (eg, “It took them the whole first year to be able to tell me apart from the other Asian guy”); (2) visibility and racial aggression (“It transitioned from these series of microaggressions that every Asian person felt to actual aggression”); (3) absence of the Asian American experience in medical school (“They’re not going to mention Asian Americans at all”); (4) ignored while seeking support (“I don’t know what it means to have this part of my identity supported”); and (5) envisioning the future.
In this qualitative study, Asian American medical students reported feeling invisible within medical school while a target of anti-Asian racism. Addressing these unique challenges related to anti-Asian racism is necessary to promote a more inclusive medical school learning environment.