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Researcher | Research Overview

Increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the physician workforce is essential in promoting health equity and helping eliminate health disparities. Yet, there continues to be inadequate representation of individuals from underrepresented in medicine (URiM) backgrounds in medicine, especially in faculty and leadership positions. One possible explanation for this disparity is the infiltration of implicit bias in subjective performance evaluations, which hinders academic advancement. Studies of clerkship evaluations and Dean’s letters revealed significant differences in the language used to describe students by gender and race/ethnicity, with personality-based attributes (eg, nice, kind) more commonly used to describe female and URiM students and competency-based attributes (eg, knowledgeable, skilled) used to describe male and non-URiM students. To the best of our knowledge, there are no studies on the role of bias in URiM resident evaluations. Our two-part study will examine the role of bias in performance evaluations of URiM residents by:

  1. comparing the language used in written evaluations of URiM vs. non-URiM residents using natural language processing;
  2. conducting a qualitative analysis of residents’ experiences in receiving biased or discriminatory feedback. The expected outcomes of this study are to inform local and national educational efforts to move towards more objective, competency-based evaluations and faculty training on giving effective feedback. Ultimately, addressing bias in evaluations may lead to more equitable academic advancement of URiM trainees and more URiM faculty/leaders in academic medicine.

Researcher | Research Background

Marcella Luercio, MD, is an attending in Hospital Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She was born and raised in Fortaleza, Brazil, where inequities in the public education and health systems inspired her to pursue a career addressing inequities in medical education and health disparities. Her medical education work focuses on uncovering and addressing the role of implicit bias in performance assessments of trainees of underrepresented in medicine backgrounds. Her work aims to create equitable practices in clinical feedback to promote the advancement and retention of diverse trainees in academic medicine. She also conducts qualitative research exploring the experiences of patients and families with Limited English Proficiency during hospitalization.

Dr. Luercio received her undergraduate degree in biology from the Honors Program at the University of Michigan-Flint. After college, she completed a 2-year research training program at the National Institutes of Health, investigating health disparities in diabetes and heart disease. She completed medical school at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University and residency training at the Boston Combined Residency in Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center, where she also served as chief resident. She is a graduate of the Rabkin Fellowship in Medical Education at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In recognition of the impact of her projects, she has been awarded grants from the American Diabetes Association and Boston Children’s Hospital (Mark A. Schuster Seed Grant), and has been invited to present her work at several national meetings. In 2021, she was chosen as one of six junior faculty to participate in the Boston Children’s Underrepresented in Medicine Faculty Coaching and Academic Advancement Program. She is committed to mentoring trainees who are underrepresented in medicine and serves as a faculty advisor in the Diversity Council of the Boston Combined Residency in Pediatrics. She also sits on the residency’s Clinical Competency Committee.

Researcher | Publications