Exploring the Socialization Experiences of Medical Students From Social Science and Humanities Backgrounds Academic Article uri icon

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  • Purpose To explore the structural, cultural, and interpersonal issues that may contribute to the inadvertent marginalization of medical students with social science and humanities (SSH) backgrounds. Method Using the hidden curriculum as an analytic construct, the lead author interviewed 14 medical students with SSH backgrounds at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine from February to October 2015. The authors analyzed the interview transcripts for common themes around positive and negative cultural, structural, and interpersonal dimensions of the socialization process. Results Participants reported barriers to applying to medical school: needing to complete prerequisite courses and to do well on an exam geared toward those with a strong science background (the Medical College Admission Test) and lacking an application cohort. Some participants felt they were not ideal candidates for medical school. Participants appreciated how their SSH backgrounds and associated skill sets shaped both their perspectives on patient care and their developing professional identities. However, they perceived that others largely deemed their previous training as irrelevant, and they felt marginalized in medical school by peers, instructors, and the curriculum. These experiences led both to self-censorship, which enabled them to seem to conform to normative behaviors, and to the pursuit of reaffirming elective experiences. Conclusions The existing hidden curriculum inadvertently marginalizes SSH medical students; their experiences likely reflect the socialization experiences of other students from underrepresented backgrounds. Curricular and institutional reforms are imperative to shift the hidden curriculum toward one of epistemological inclusion that better supports students from nontraditional backgrounds.


  • Lam, Justin TH
  • Hanson, Mark
  • Martimianakis, Maria Athina Tina

publication date

  • March 2020