Medical students in Cork say racism is damaging their career prospects

Medical students in Cork say racism is damaging their career prospects

A GROUP of medical students in Cork have claimed that systematic racism is damaging their career prospects in the Irish health service.

The Medical Research and Tech Society at University College Cork (UCC) will host an event this month aimed at discussing and tackling the issue of racism in the Irish health system.

In a letter sent to UCC president Professor Patrick O’Shea and other UCC heads, Arnav Mahajan, society chairperson, said that recent research has indicated there is a problem of racism in the context of the Irish healthcare system.

“This exists in a two-fold manner — firstly, there are systematic issues that hinder immigrant medical students and immigrant trainees from adequately developing their medical career in Ireland; secondly, there remain many unaddressed cultural biases in many healthcare professionals translate to worsening clinical experience,” he said.

“When many of my peers and I came to Ireland, we assumed a certain amount of stability in our career options within the medical profession.

“We were never informed of the fact that intern-years are favoured towards Irish students regardless of whether we outrank them academically,” he added.

“As many of our classmates enter their first years of clinical exposure, we are all rightfully concerned about our future in Ireland as physicians.”

The Medical Research and Tech Society will host a conference titled An Exploration of Systematic Racism in Ireland on March 11 at UCC to highlight these issues.

The society created a video ahead of the event which features personal accounts of racism experienced in the health sector, read out by students at UCC.

“When we were being taught how to take blood, we were told black people have thicker skin so we’d need a longer needle — this is some pseudoscience,” said one contributor.

An Asian student recalled attending a GP placement, where they would be given fliers on how to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The students’ Irish colleagues who worked with the same GP received no such literature.

Another student overheard a consultant say they would not ask her a question because she is Malaysian, and “probably doesn’t speak English well”.

Arnav Mahajan said: “We are hoping to create a platform where these types of issues can be discussed within UCC, and especially so within the context of the Irish healthcare system.

“By having open discussion around the issue, and a recognition that such problems exist, the hope is that we will slowly be able to change the current barriers that are limiting excellent professional talent.”

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