Cultivating Empathy Through Virtual Reality: Advancing Conversations About Racism, Inequity, and Climate in Medicine

Roswell, R. O., Cogburn, C. D., Tocco, J., Martinez, J., Bangeranye, C., Bailenson, J. N., … & Smith, L. (2020). Cultivating empathy through virtual reality: advancing conversations about racism, inequity, and climate in medicine. Academic Medicine, 95(12), 1882-1886.


A growing corpus of evidence elucidates the various ways in which racism affects health and health inequities. In the United States, trainings to minimize implicit bias and foster cultural humility have become the mainstay of interventions aimed at reducing racial health inequities, and many of these have led to improvements in provider knowledge and attitudes regarding health care access.1 However, since racism is a fundamental cause of racial inequities in health, 2 directing attention to the structural and cultural systems that undergird inequity may be more critical to the effort of realizing health equity. Racism in the United States is enacted most perceptibly at the interpersonal level, yet it is also deeply rooted in the historical and institutional structures of U.S. society. Structural racism persists in laws and policies that keep some groups at the margins of quality housing, nutrition, education, employment, and health care 1–3 Enduring racism has perpetuated unequal access to medical care, disproportionately high morbidity and mortality, and underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in the professional health sciences. 1–3 The ability to engage in a structural analysis of health systems should be a foundational core competency in medicine.