College leaders receive grant to expand allyship and bystander tools to address microaggressions

 Microaggressionssubtle, indirect verbal, behavioral or derogatory discrimination – occur daily in the medical care system, including in academia. In the teaching and learning environment, implicit bias and racism can harm students, patients and members of the health care team.Drs. McDougle and Holliday

Thats why creating tools for peers and faculty to provide practical information and support to learners is critical in the formal delivery of learning and practice. And its why two innovative leaders at The Ohio State University College of Medicine have collaborated to create tools to expand allyship and bystander skills training in graduate medical education at the college.

Leon McDougle, MD, MPH, professor of Family and Community Medicine and associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion, and Scott Holliday, MD, clinical associate professor of Internal Medicine and dean of Graduate Medical Education, have just been awarded the Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s 2023-2025 Picker Gold Graduate Medical Education Challenge Grant for their project, Just-in-Time Upstander/Allyship Resources for the Clinical Learning Environment.”

“We aim to help learners and their colleagues feel better prepared to address incidents of microaggressions using immediately available tools,” Dr. McDougle says. “Enhancing clinical training equips faculty and learners with an understanding of unconscious bias and how it forms the basis for microaggressions in all aspects of health care.”

Dr. Holliday says that teaching others to speak up or act in support of individuals experiencing bias and aggression has the potential to drive real change. The work also aligns with the college’s ambition of being an institution that transforms the health of our communities through inclusive and innovative education, equity and innovation.

“These resources increase the understanding of how unconscious bias, although unintentional, can change interaction and communication with others,” Dr. Holliday says. That is why Bystanders Skills-Building was included in the graduate medical education orientations in 2022 and 2023.

The skills are designed to uplift allyship, so that persons from marginalized groups do not feel burdened with being the first individuals to respond to microaggressions. The design increases awareness and play a part in changing people’s behavior,” Dr. McDougle says.

Through the grant, Drs. McDougle and Holliday will work with co-investigators Jaclyn Gish-Lieberman, EdD, senior instructional design specialist, and Rich Thompson, PhD, research specialist, in the college’s Office of Curriculum and Scholarship

Together, theyll work to broaden the innovative training from the original Bystander Microaggression Intervention Guide by adding two “just-in-time” resources – a mobile app and badge – that give clinicians immediate support when managing distressing situations. 

The mobile app will display evidence-based microaggression intervention techniques and highlight their use in authentic health care scenarios. In addition, the badge will provide a constant visual reminder of the intervention techniques shared in the mobile app. This novel approach will be expanded beyond orientation and be included in grand rounds.

After developing prototypes for these resources and gathering feedback during a pilot phase, the researchers will share the badge and mobile app with approximately 350 learners and 350 attending physicians across 19 clinical departments at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

“Our initiative will enhance the learning environment and health care provided for thousands of patients annually,” Dr. Holliday says. “We will use surveys and interviews to assess the program’s impact.

The Picker Gold Graduate Medical Education Challenge Grant Program supports the research and development of patient-centered care initiatives in residency programs. Each award of up to $25,000 is matched by equal funding from the principal investigators’ medical institution.