Discrimination in the medical curriculum: are medical schools providing students with equal access to the medical profession?

doctors 2020

(Bill Oxford, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Anushree Burade, a fourth year medical student studying at ESIC Medical College, Bangalore, India. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


India is the 2nd most populous country in the world. That being said, it is extremely diverse in terms of sub – ethnicities, races, religions and languages spoken. Almost 19,500 different languages are spoken across entire India. And thus, this is one big barrier in providing efficient health care services to patients by health care professionals.

I’ve grown up in the central region of India – geographically speaking. And my entire life I’ve been speaking English, Marathi and Hindi. I joined a medical university in the southern part of India. The day I joined the university, I was taken by surprise with the amount of differences I witnessed. Students and staffs mainly communicated in English and Kannada. I was absolute rookie to kannada language. I enthusiastically tried to learn kannada and some of my beloved friends cheerfully helped me as well.

1st year of medical school was comparatively easy to me because I just had 3 subjects to study – anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. Real struggle I faced when I actually entered in 2nd year when clinical postings started. I was completely shunned down by the native language speaking students. I tried my best to learn the language in order to make my patients comfortable. Studying entire language along with the vast syllabus of medicine is difficult and gradually, my grades dropped due to that frustration.

But hey, honestly language barrier was never the issue. Real problem was the discrimination I faced because of this language barrier. Many professors prejudice that north Indians and central Indians students are mischievous and don’t study adequately as compared to south indian students. Often before testing our knowledge and clinical skills or even our name, they would ask us the region we belong to. Some would even take the liberty to show their prejudice by their expressions and tone of talking. Some native language speaking students would even giggle at our rookie attempts to speak the local language.

Incidences like these demotivates incoming students, discourages them to involve into academic activities without any fear of being judged by the people around them. Medical School do not even provide basics of local language education to immigrant students in the medical curriculum. They are often judged by their skin colour as well. A fair skinned person is prejudiced to be belonging from northern India and dark skinned person from southern India. Same goes with the name, religion and accents. Groups are formed within the classes and students are addressed as entire group rather than being addressed individually.

Our fight was never against the variety of languages, races, ethnicities or religions. The unity in this diversity is what makes India great, they are part of it and we accept all of it gracefully. Our fight is against discrimination which leads to havocs and despairs amongst everyone including medical students. And we solemnly swear to fight until we make this world free of discrimination.

About the author

Anushree Burade is a fourth year medical student studying at ESIC Medical College, Bangalore, India. She is the current NEO GA for this term of 2020-21. She is passionate about making this world a better place to live – free of racism, discrimination, and inequality by voicing herself in the form of her writings and poems.

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