Teaching Medical Students How to Ask Patients Questions About Identity, Intersectionality, and Resilience

Date of Review: October, 2018

This 2-hour curriculum, from MedEdPORTAL, aims to equip first- year medical and dental students with tools to inquire about identity and intersectionality –the co-existence of multiple identities for a given patient, which can magnify health disparities. The curriculum, which consists of pre-work, a didactic lecture, and a small group activity, focuses on patient-centered care for people with sex and gender minority identities and other stigmatized identities. Students watch a preparatory video in which patients speak eloquently and movingly about how these identities affected their healthcare and their relationships with providers. The initial slide presentation then defines terms within the field and offers example questions for patient interviews. Students then break into groups and choose from a set of six role plays. In pairs, one student plays the patient and the other the provider, then they switch roles and choose another case. Finally a debriefing is done. The authors note the importance of faculty development ahead of the session to be sure that small group preceptors create a safe space, demonstrate respect for the topic, and are familiar with the terminology. The authors present some qualitative evidence that students appreciated the content of the session, though numerical ratings and pre-/post- surveys were not obtained. Medical students sometimes resist role play, and these role plays, which delve into complex and intimate information, may have been difficult for students to undertake in a short session. But the content is well-presented, and the sessions could be adapted to fit the needs of programs even if the cases were used differently. —Heather Heiman, MD, NCEAS

Corresponding Author’s Email:



Harvard Medical School

Where Was the Curriculum Implemented?

Boston, MA

Source of the Curriculum/Resource:


Clinical Specialty:

Emergency medicine, family and community medicine, internal medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry and behavioral sciences

Outcomes that Have Been Reported for the Curriculum:

Learner satisfaction or reaction

Outcome and Study Design:

Post only

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