Waterloo Region Record

Queen’s to teach med students about historic ban on Black applicants


When medical students begin classes at Queen’s University this fall, they’ll be taught for the first time about the school’s decadeslon­g ban on admitting Black applicants to the program.

The university apologized earlier this year for the ban — which was establishe­d in 1918 and enforced until 1965 — and vowed to take further steps to address past discrimina­tion. A portion of the first-year medical curriculum is now being dedicated to discussing the ban and its long-lasting effects.

Last year, Edward Thomas, a part-time PhD student at Queen’s, took it upon himself to investigat­e the ban further and eventually presented his findings to university officials.

He found that the ban was the university’s attempt to increase its ranking under the American Medical Associatio­n, and learned that seven Black medical students had to leave as a result.

Before the ban, Queen’s had a “C” ranking but that went up to a probationa­ry “B” later in the year the ban was brought in, Thomas found. The rankings were consulted by the Carnegie Foundation and Rockefelle­r Foundation when they made decisions about funding for medical schools.

Thomas also pointed out to the university that the ban had not officially been rescinded.

Queen’s accepted his research, and its senate voted to formally rescind the ban last fall.

The lessons on the ban that will be taught to the latest cohort of Queen’s medical students will be part of a broader look at ways admissions to the school were limited by race, class and gender, said Jenna Healey, an assistant professor on the history of medicine with the school who has been working on the new curriculum.

The course unit, titled “Who gets to be a doctor,” will look into the ways minority groups have been excluded from the medical profession.

An hour will be dedicated solely to the historical background of the ban, and students will spend two more hours in small groups analyzing four case studies on the medical school’s admission history.

Students will also be asked to come up with strategies on how to diversify the profession going forward.

Mala Joneja, director of diversity and equity at the Queen’s school of medicine, said that in addition to the new curriculum, the faculty also plans to organize a symposium, an exhibit and a website based on Thomas’s research on the ban.

“The ultimate goal is to create a supportive medical environmen­t for Black medical students and create an inclusive medical school where everyone feels they belong,” she said.

Anjola Ogunsina, a Black premed student at Queen’s, said she’s happy to see the university take action.

“Queen’s saw there was a need for change,” said Ogunsina, who is also president of Queen’s Black Premedical Student Associatio­n.

“I’m pretty happy that my school has decided to start innovating the curriculum, and (I’m) hoping other schools follow suit.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada