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Hosted by the UNC School of Medicine’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, “Can We Talk About Race?” serves as a kickoff for a medical education curricular innovation and a nuanced discussion on race at the Ackland Art Museum. In light of the racially motivated Pittsburgh shootings, ongoing turmoil over Silent Sam, and other recent highly charged public events, there is a pressing need for enhanced and integrated attention to race and ethnicity in UNC School of Medicine curriculum.


Racial Equity in Medicine Recommendations

Students in the Racial Equity in Medicine Elective (REME) strive to not only engage with the research that illuminates the biases in medical education and practice, but they also design projects to dismantle systems of oppression within UNC School of Medicine. Many REME student projects address education and share a goal to enrich the existing curriculum with a racial education that is more longitudinal, engaging, and effective. In a project entitled “Can We Talk About Race?” at the Ackland Art Museum, we will facilitate a discussion on race through art.


Why Art?

Art is the ideal vehicle to present contentious topics for the same reason that these topics are difficult to talk about –– both carry an emotional charge. Art allows us to locate our emotional response in an object and to receive others’ perspectives from common ground. Unlike typical discussions of race, “Can We Talk About Race?” invites all students to participate in the conversation not from a place of anger, privilege, or guilt, but as individuals who also experience and have been deeply affected by racial division. Using art as a means to confront race is one of many innovations we can employ to enrich medical school racial education.


We aim to equip students with confidence to communicate with those different from them, and empower them to address racial inequity in a way that neither alienates nor accuses. 

The pilot took place at the Ackland Art Museum on December 13th, 2018. Invited attendees included student leaders and all Foundation Phase faculty, including but not limited to: Course Block Directors, Small Group Leaders, Social and Health Systems (SHS) Faculty, and Patient Centered Care (PCC) Faculty. Conversation was facilitated by students in the Racial Equity in Medicine Elective and academic specialists from the Ackland Art Museum. Please see here for photos from the event.


This project has been developed by medical students, Bria Godley and Diana Dayal, with the guidance of faculty mentors:

Dr. Cedric Bright, Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence, UNC School of Medicine

Dr. Candis Watts Smith, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, UNC College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Samuel Cykert, Professor, General Internal Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, UNC School of Medicine

Dr. Paul Godley, Vice Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, UNC School of Medicine


Special thanks to Elizabeth Manekin and Carolyn Allmendinger of the Ackland Art Museum, Stephanie Brown of UNC School of Medicine Office of Inclusive Excellence, and Mimi Chapman of UNC School of Social Work.