February 19, 2009

Do UK medical Schools have a problem with Racism?

The Telegraph are today reporting on the story that Virginia Jibowu,  a medical student from Kings College London was subject to racist bullying. They have reported the following on their website.


Virginia Jibowu claims she was ostracised by students in an "institutionally racist" environment at London's King's College medical school.

The 25-year-old alleges that fellow students refused to shop, eat or share a shower-room with her in their accommodation.

The issue looks set to run into the courts. I hope to poll medical students on their thoughts on the issue at my sister site Medical Educator.





- 14 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. One interesting point the article raises is that despite passing all her previous years exams she failed the final year.

    But she claims the college deliberately failed her from final exams and then, without informing her, contacted hospital bosses in Gwent to say she would not be taking up her post.

    A I the only one sceptical enough to wonder if she would have thought of suing if she had passed the course? Not to mention all university exams I am aware of are marked anonymously, so how can they have ‘deliberately’ failed her without a massive abuse of power going on.

    20 Feb 2009, 01:53

  2. Suzi

    You wrote University College London. It’s King’s College London :-P !!!!!

    Never mistake UCL for KCL. Ha :-).

    See this blog=brightreddress.blogspot.com. Some King’s medical students have posted there views.

    21 Feb 2009, 12:32

  3. Jo Riggs

    Think about it this way Eleanor – I’d imagine it’s only the thought that she was going to be pass that prevented her from sueing previously. They can’t threaten her anymore. If Kings College had bothered to investigate when the incidents were alleged none of this would be necessary. It’s clearly a case worth investigating further because over the course of these new graduates’ careers they’ll be making regular decisions about whether people live or die. It’s chilling to think of these ’Doctors’ treating patients from ethnic minorities with the views that they potentially hold. All people need to be safe in our hospitals.

    21 Feb 2009, 20:04

  4. Personally I’m not sure i would want a doctor that failed their final year, and thus most important, exams treating me. The blog linked to my commenter number two suggests the student in question failed three of her other years of study – passing on resits – which I understand to not be uncommon, but stil not particularly inspiring ona medical practice front. The two issues are rather separate though, obviously racism is bad and should be investigated.

    22 Feb 2009, 01:51

  5. James Bateman

    I think its an incredibly difficult area. Suzi, apologies you are entirely correct, I’ve amended the entry, it was an unfortunate inaccuracy. The issue about failing is very difficult. Consider the possibility of identifying the 5 students in any given year that were likely to fail, and then coaching them before their exams intensively. Does this mean these students are likely to be any better?

    There is some evidence to say that students who struggle through their exams at medical school can potentially have problems later in their careers, but it is sparse, and needs to be considered very carefully.

    As for anonomysing students sitting exams this is possible up until the point a face to face examination is needed, such as an OSCE where students stand in front of doctors and are examined.

    The difficulty of any situation like this is that it is commonplace for students to have serious greivences whenever they fail any assessment. The difficulty is ascertaining if foul play has been a component of that.

    22 Feb 2009, 13:17

  6. James Bateman

    PS I’ve been debating on the topic on my Twitter site, and the opinion from some international students is an emphatic “no” re: a racism problem.

    22 Feb 2009, 13:20

  7. Dog G

    I’m not sure the problem was racism… snobbism – yes.
    I can’t imagine why King’s made disadvantaged students even more disadvantaged by making them wear a badge.

    13 Mar 2009, 15:56

  8. James Bateman

    It does seem strange: it’s often difficult to gauge the truth in these matters. To put you comment in context for the other bloggers G:
    The Telegraph reported the following:

    “Miss Jibowu enrolled on the college’s six year extended medical degree course for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in September 2002.
    She said students on that course had to wear a special badge, which led to them being bullied by counterparts on the regular five year degree programme. “

    If this is the case, it does seem a particularly unusual step for a University to take. I can’t necessarily see the logic in doing that. Perhaps some other Kings students could put it in context for us?

    15 Mar 2009, 16:46

  9. Well if they are Medical Students they would all have to, when working in a hospital environment, wear an ID badge/card, its possible their cards looked different, but its hard to imagine them being massively changed from the norm, mainly because changing the design of a necessary ID Card for a tiny minority of students would surely be prohibitively expensive.

    15 Mar 2009, 17:11

  10. David Metcalfe

    I find these allegations rather difficult to believe.

    It also seems fruitless to speculate on this particular case when all we have is a set of bizaare and wide-ranging allegations to work with. If there is a genuine claim then doubtless the High Court will do its duty.

    15 Mar 2009, 22:31

  11. James Bateman

    David I can see your point entirely. However the points do need to be debated. Any University which is putting itself in the firing line for these sort of claims needs to have a robust explanation for the site. I’ve been running some interviews with a number of protagonists from Remedy UK, and a number of other issues relevant to Medical Students – I’m going to explore inviting a representative from Kings to speak to me in an audio interview, hopefully to talk through some of the issues in an informal manner. In the case where parties can potentially deliberately mislead, its easy to say that the courts will sort it out, but I understand its notoriously difficult (my sister in law is an Employment Lawyer in the City). Its obviously a talking point- see the blog from one of the links above to see what I mean.

    Eleanor from my experience a lot of hospitals require university ID as their main form: at UHCW in Coventry, students need an ID badge of their own from the trust, but Ill check out what the policy is for what they have to wear at home. If the claims are correct, you can see why it was introduced as a well meaning measure, and the problems it causes.

    17 Mar 2009, 23:05

  12. Sammy B

    In my experience, medical schools are institutionally racist. It’s the intangible, the surprise fails, the comments such as “Did your parents want you to be a dr?” from senior clinicians.

    For example, at my medical school (which, I shall not name), last year 9/ 15 who failed their finals were not white. This year, at one resit, 12/22 were not white. And this is in a year where I would say roughly that 20% of the year (if that) are not white. It’s a medical school where I’ve heard the phrase “If you’re white and male, you won’t fail”. Not one of my examiners this year in the OSCEs were non-white.

    It’ll be impossible to prove, but I promise you it’s there.

    10 Jun 2009, 18:30

  13. Anon

    Hi Guys. On the racism front the issues are always complex. And for those who are not from an ethnic minority the often subtle racial hints you might not pick up. For example the epitomy of European success as a strong blonde haired blue eyeed person resounds in all our minds on an unconscious stage. Concerning this case without more evidence it is alwayssh to make judgement which some of you have casually done. Concerning students who have failed it is extremely ignorant to think for some of you to mention that you would be unhappy for someone who fails finals to treat you. Often students that do fail have outside disadvantages that hamper their struggle to perform as best they can. These sadly always remain that even when they do pass they have problems later. Also it takes tremendous courage to bounce back from failing to try again. Courage that when utilised well can stand some in extremely good stead later. You would be suprised how many senior consultants failed finals and other exams in medical school but who are huge stars. I found out one fif the other day and it shocked me enormously. So it is highly ignorant to mention you would never want someone treating you if they failed finals. In this girls case who knows exactly what happened.

    10 Jun 2009, 23:35

  14. James Bateman

    Re: the last comment from Anon, I have to say I agree strongly with the issue regarding students that fail finals. From personal experience some of the best juniors training under me have had difficulties with a particular aspect of final exams. I think I just view it as a form of QC. If you’re good enough to pass either first time or at the resit, you’re good enough. End of story.

    Speaking from experience of local practices, I’m surprised at the ethnic make up of doctors examining students. It would be logical to assume the ethnic background would reflect that of the consultants currently working in the trust. I will not comment on specific trusts, but suffice to say I have not experienced the situation encountered by Sammy B. Obviously I can’t say it doesn’t exist, and I appreciate the professionalism shown in not naming names in this sort of forum.

    22 Jun 2009, 22:39


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