Assessing Harmful Bias and Celebrating Strength Through the Narratives of Black/African American Physician Assistant Students

Vanessa S. Bester, Carolyn Bradley-Guidry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


IntroductionTwo national crises, the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism, have drawn nationwide attention to the disparities that exist in our society today. The American healthcare system, including physician assistant (PA) education, is not exempt from the impact of harmful bias and discrimination. The purpose of this study was to explore narratives recounting the experiences of Black/African Americans who have successfully completed their PA education in an attempt to understand how PA educators can better support students of color.MethodsQualitative, semi-structured interviews, guided by a critical race theory framework, were conducted with 6 Black/African American PAs who had graduated within the last 5 years. Trustworthiness was ensured through member checking, triangulation, peer debriefing during the coding and analysis process, and autoethnographic reflection.ResultsThemes of mentorship and cultural capital, including aspirations, family, social support, and resistance to an oppressive system, highlight the strengths present in Black/African American students. Additional themes surrounding stress related to race, including a pressure to prove, isolation and anxiety, and imposter phenomenon, all pointed toward the need for honest and safe dialogue among individuals with racial differences.DiscussionThis research article presents key findings and opportunities for PA educators to emphasize cultural capital to enable Black/African American PA students to thrive. Communicating across racial differences and intentional engagement are imperative for PA educators to successfully support Black/African American students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-163
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physician Assistant Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Medical Assisting and Transcription


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