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Bias against foreign-born or foreign-trained doctors: experimental evidence

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Medical Education 2010: 44: 1241–1247 Objectives 

Bias against foreign-born or -trained medical students and doctors is not well understood, despite its documented impact on recruitment, integration and retention. This research experimentally examines the interaction of location of medical education and nationality in evaluations of doctors’ competence and trustworthiness. Methods 

A convenience sample of prospective patients evaluated fictitious candidates for a position as a doctor in community practice at a new local health clinic. All applicants were described as having the same personality profile, legal qualifications to practise, a multi-degree education and relevant work experience. The location of medical education (the candidate’s home country or the UK) and national background (Australia or Pakistan) of the applicants were independently experimentally manipulated. Results 

Consistent with previous research on skills discounting and bias, foreign-born candidates were evaluated less favourably than native-born candidates, despite their comparable education level, work experience and personality. However, overseas medical education obtained in the First World both boosted evaluations (of competence and trustworthiness) and attenuated bias based on nationality. Conclusions 

The present findings demonstrate the selective discounting of foreign-born doctors’ credentials. The data show an interaction of location of medical education and birth nationality in bias against foreign doctors. On an applied level, the data document that the benefits of medical education obtained in the First World can extend beyond its direct outcomes (high-quality training and institutional recognition) to the indirect benefit of the attenuation of patient bias based on nationality.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia 2: Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 3: Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: December 1, 2010


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