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Medical schools have increasingly incorporated the humanities and social sciences into their teaching, seeking to make future physicians more empathetic and more concerned with social equity. In practice, however, such education often has not only failed to deliver on its promise but even entrenched the inequalities that the medical profession set out to address. I examine how U.S. medical school faculty conceived, designed, and implemented their vision of education, tracing the failures of curricular reform. I pinpoint the limitations of how clinical faculty understand the humanities and social sciences, arguing that in structuring and teaching courses, they assumed, reinforced, and glorified a white, elite model of the medical profession.

“Olsen pairs keen analysis with engaging writing to show how curricular reforms intended to ameliorate inequality actually reinforce it. Curricular Injustice is more than an update to such classics as Boys in White; it reveals an understudied mechanism through which medicine’s investment in inequality endures.” - LaTonya Trotter, University of Washington


“Olsen incisively specifies how medical educators misunderstand the social sciences and humanities and misrecognize the salience of these disciplines for healthcare. Curricular Injustice shows why medicine as currently taught will continue to marginalize patients and what must change for health systems and providers to offer more humane and equitable care.” - Janet K. Shim, UCSF


“Olsen’s Curricular Injustice is a pioneering, scrupulously researched, and long overdue analysis of the consequences of race-aversive medical education in the United States. A major accomplishment of this book is its explanation of how racially naïve medical educators persuaded themselves that exposing medical students to ‘medical humanities’ courses could replace a serious engagement with the racial dimension of medicine.” -John Hoberman, UT Austin

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