Honors Theses

Publication Date

Spring 4-24-2022

Abstract

General and systemic racial inequalities, including slavery, mass incarceration, and health disparities, have existed throughout the history of the United States. Recent public health issues, specifically the COVID-19 pandemic, have shed light on enduring health disparities, including the disproportionate impact on black communities and other racial minorities. A crucial first step towards a more equitable healthcare system is increasing general awareness of the presence and effects of racial disparities. Previous research has quantified and described the awareness of racial disparities in healthcare practitioners, including medical students and practicing physicians, but little research has been dedicated to understanding the perspectives of undergraduate students. In this study, a mixed-method survey was used to analyze the perspectives of undergraduate students in the Belmont University College of Sciences and Mathematics, as many of these students aspire to enter the healthcare field. In this survey, students were asked to offer their insight into the presence of racial disparities, the manifestations of disparities, factors contributing to disparities, and where students are encountering discussions on disparities. These responses were coded following a grounded methodology and compared to themes derived from a literature analysis of racial disparities in healthcare. The results indicate that undergraduate Belmont students generally have a very high awareness of the presence of racial disparities in healthcare. The general sample population also presents a varied and detailed understanding of the factors that contribute to racial disparities. Our findings contrast with previous research that generally finds lower rates of awareness and understanding in healthcare practitioner populations. Based on this analysis, one general finding was observed: facilitation of the exchange of ideas between students, with the guidance of professors, is the most efficient and effective way to increase general student understanding of racial disparities in healthcare, and we recommend that this practice be adopted in STEM courses.

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Rebecca Adams

Document Type

Honors Thesis

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