Microaggressions in Medicine

Brittany Feaster, MHS; Lynn McKinley-Grant, MD, MA; Amy J. McMichael, MD


Cutis. 2021;107(5):235-237. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Microaggressions are behaviors that stem from implicit bias and occur at an interpersonal level. In medicine, microaggressions may be encountered both in training and clinical practice. Although often unintentional or unconscious by the offender, microaggressions are harmful to the health and safety of women and underrepresented minority (URM) medical students, residents, physicians, other providers, and patients. This article aims to define microaggressions, present example scenarios, and provide discourse regarding microaggressions within the framework of medicine.


As manifestations of overt racism and macroaggressions have gained increased visibility, there is a need for discussion of another expression of racism: microaggressions. Although racism classically is viewed as blatant structural, attitudinal, and behavioral prejudice, experts pose that the face of racism has evolved into a more covert insidious form. This form of racism was originally coined racial microaggressions by psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce, MD, 50 years ago.[1,2] Since that time, microaggressions have further expanded to describe "brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual-orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group."[3] This article aims to define and depict examples of microaggressions in medicine, discuss the resulting harmful effects, and offer strategies to minimize and counter these negative ramifications.