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Special Communication
July 10, 2019

Recognizing and Reacting to Microaggressions in Medicine and Surgery

Author Affiliations
  • 1Surgical Oncology Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland
  • 2Section of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri
  • 3Division of Trauma, Critical Care, and Burns, Department of Surgery, The Ohio State University, Columbus
JAMA Surg. 2019;154(9):868-872. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2019.1648

Diversity and inclusion in medicine, and in surgery in particular, still merit substantial attention in 2019. With each increase in academic rank there are fewer women, with only 24% of full professors in medicine being women. Underrepresented minorities face similar challenges, with only 3% of medical faculty being black and 4% of medical faculty being Hispanic or Latino; only 2% of full professors are Hispanic or Latino and only another 2% are black. Explicit discrimination unfortunately still does exist, but in many environments, more subtle forms of bias are more prevalent. Microaggressions, which are categorized as microassaults, microinsults, microinvalidations, and environmental microaggressions, are indirect expressions of prejudice that contribute to the maintenance of existing power structures and may limit the hiring, promotion, and retention of women and underrepresented minorities. The primary goal of this communication is to help readers understand microaggressions and their effect. We also provide suggestions for how recipients or bystanders may respond to microaggressions.

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