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Occupational therapy must include focus on ‘anti-racism,’ rehab college says

‘Health care professions, including occupational therapy, perpetuate racism and white supremacy throughout aspects of their practice’

Occupational therapy students should study not just how the body operates and how to ensure people are able to comfortably work and exercise – they should also be trained in “anti-racism,” according to a Canadian college of rehabilitation.

“Anti-racism” in healthcare was a major topic at the University of Manitoba College of Rehabilitation’s “Critical Inquiry Research Project Symposium” for MA students enrolled in the school’s occupational therapy program.

Program modules at the summer symposium included “Racism in healthcare clinical education: An educators perspective,” and “Identifying and analyzing anti-racist educational interventions: A scoping review,” according to an agenda posted online.

“Racism and white supremacy are prevalent in Western institutions,” the agenda stated as the introduction to the module on “anti-racist education interventions.” It was led by three students under academic advisor Leanne Leclair.

The Fix reached out to Leclair to ask about how medical practitioners began to take up “anti-racism,” but has not received a response.

The College Fix also reached out to the College of Rehabilitation and the Rady Faculty of Health Science public relations for comment, but has not received a response.

“Health care professions, including occupational therapy, perpetuate racism and white supremacy throughout aspects of their practice. To address racism in practice, occupational therapy curriculum must include education that enhances anti-racist practice,” the introduction stated.

Leclair, associate professor in the department of rehabilitation science, occupational therapy, has conducted research focused on “understanding how occupational therapists engage with communities, their preparation and ongoing professional development needs related to community development practice, the organization and delivery of community rehabilitation services, and the integration of occupational therapy in primary care,” according to her department website.

‘Racism is ingrained within the Canadian healthcare system,’ other module stated

“Racism is ingrained within the Canadian healthcare system and contributes to health injustices and inequalities for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIpoc),” according to the description of the “racism in healthcare clinical education” module.

“This study provides insight into the way fieldwork educators currently support their students and approach racism within their own clinical setting,” the description stated. “The results can provide guidance for other fieldwork educators, the University of Manitoba, and the College of Occupational Therapists of Manitoba (COTM) on how to promote anti-racist practice in relation to fieldwork education”

The Fix requested comments from Stanley Goldfarb, former associate dean of curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and chairman of Do No Harm, an organization dedicated to fighting radical ideology in medicine. It has not received a response for this article.

However, in several recent interviews with The College Fix, Goldfarb has expressed concern with the politicization of health care, primarily in American medical schools.

“There is no valid basis or literature to support their contention that teaching (components) of critical race theory to medical students will improve medical care or health outcomes for Black patients,” Goldfarb said.

MORE: UCLA symposium: healthcare needs to be more inclusive of all genders

IMAGE: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Ronald Sherman is a student at Northern Virginia Community College.