Later this month, Academic Medicine will post the published ahead-of-print articles from the July 2013 issue. To tide you over until then, here’s a preview of a research report from David P. Miller, Jr., MD and colleagues:
Are Medical Students Aware of Their Anti-obesity Bias?
David P. Miller, Jr., MD, MS, John G. Spangler, MD, MPH, Mara Z. Vitolins, DrPH, RD, Stephen W. Davis, MS, Edward H. Ip, PhD, Gail S. Marion, PA, PhD, and Sonia J. Crandall, PhD
Anti-obesity prejudices affect the quality of care obese individuals receive. The authors sought to determine the prevalence of weight-related biases among medical students and whether they were aware of their biases.
Between 2008 and 2011, the authors asked all third-year medical students at Wake Forest School of Medicine to complete the Weight Implicit Association Test (IAT), a validated measure of implicit preferences for “fat” or “thin” individuals. Students also answered a semantic differential item assessing their explicit weight-related preferences. The authors determined students’ awareness of their biases by examining the correlation between students’ explicit preferences and their IAT scores.
Of 354 medical students, 310 (88%) completed valid surveys and consented to participate. Overall, 33% (101/310) self-reported a significant (“moderate” or “strong”) explicit anti-fat bias. No students self-reported a significant explicit anti-thin bias. According to the IAT scores, over half of students had a significant implicit weight bias: 39% (121/310) had an anti-fat bias and 17% (52/310) an anti-thin bias. Two-thirds of students (67%, 81/121) were unaware of their implicit anti-fat bias. Only male gender predicted an explicit anti-fat bias (odds ratio 3.0, 95% confidence interval 1.8–5.3). No demographic factors were associated with an implicit anti-fat bias. Students’ explicit and implicit biases were not correlated (Pearson r = 0.03, P = .58).
Over one-third of medical students had a significant implicit anti-fat bias; few were aware of that bias. Accordingly, medical schools’ obesity curricula should address weight-related biases and their potential impact on care.