Whiteness theory and the (in)visible hierarchy in medical education

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Medical education




CONTEXT: The theory of whiteness in medical education has largely been ignored, yet its power continues to influence learners within our medical curricula and our patients and trainees within our health systems. Its influence is even more powerful given the fact that society maintains a 'possessive investment' in its presence. In combination, these (in)visible forces create environments that favour White individuals at the exclusion of all others, and as health professions educators and researchers, we have the responsibility to uncover how and why these influences continue to pervade medical education. PROPOSAL: To better understand how whiteness and the possessive investment in its presence create (in)visible hierarchies, we define and explore the origin of whiteness by examining whiteness studies and how we have come to have a possessive investment in its presence. Next, we provide ways in which whiteness can be studied in medical education so that it can be disruptive. CONCLUSION: We encourage health profession educators and researchers to collectively 'make strange' our current hierarchical system by not just recognising the privileges afforded to those who are White but also recognising how these privileges are invested in and maintained. As a community, we must develop and resist established power structures to transform the current hierarchy into a more equitable system that supports everyone, not just those who are White.