Exploring the experiences of racialized learners to understand and dismantle racist structures in our healthcare system

Racism is experienced by learners, professionals, and patients in our healthcare system and contributes to well-documented health inequities. However, patient care and health outcomes are improved through a diverse physician workforce. Medical schools have attempted to support diversity through the admissions process, including increased racial diversity in their programs. Yet we know little about the experiences of racialized learners once admitted. This study will explore the impact of existing policies, processes and practices on learners’ sense of agency, attending to their perspectives on how their experiences of racism impact patient care.
This study focuses on racialized learners’ experiences in their clinical education over time through the use of diaries and interviews. Engaging with learners across four medical schools, we will attend to the impact of important differences in their identities such as race, gender, and sexual orientation.
Through this study, we will identify concrete ways in which our healthcare (and clinical education) systems perpetuate racism. From this, I will work with clinicians, educators and policy makers to enact systems changes that will ultimately reduce health inequities.

Developing a safe and effective analgesic for chronic pain relief

About 6 million Canadians report a form of chronic pain, yet half of the sufferers do not get enough pain relief from their medications. This severely affects their quality of life and has significant social and economic burdens. Opioid medications, such as morphine, are the most powerful pain killers available, but these drugs also cause serious side effects, such as suppressed breathing, leading to a high risk of death from overdose.

In 2016, there were 2,861 opioid overdose deaths in Canada, and British Columbia (BC) reported the highest opioid-related death rate, which was three times the national average. The overdose rate in BC increased 17-fold from 2011 to 2016. This worsening opioid epidemic resulted in changes in opioid prescribing standards, and half of the chronic pain sufferers can no longer access opioid drugs in BC. Dr. Li will lead a team to develop a new, effective, and safe drug for chronic pain relief. This new drug will improve pain relief options and access for patients who suffer from chronic pain.

The team will work with companies to ensure this new drug is readily available to pain sufferers through primary care to all populations in BC and the whole of Canada.