Recognizing and Reckoning With Unconscious Bias: A Workshop for Health Professions Faculty Search Committees

Publication ID Published Volume
10544 February 16, 2017 13

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Introduction: As part of national efforts to reduce disparities in access to care, health professions schools have committed to increasing the proportion of faculty members from underrepresented minority groups. Responsibility for recruiting and vetting candidates for faculty positions, however, tends to rest in decentralized search committees that may receive no training in the science of human judgment. Simply as a product of living in a stratified culture, we form unthinking stereotypes about certain groups of people. Fortunately, when people become sensitized to their unconscious biases, they can minimize cognitive errors. Methods: This 2-hour workshop is designed to introduce health professions faculty search committee members to the concept of unconscious bias and to spur reflection on how it can influence the decisions they make. In small-group activities, participants create and test materials that can facilitate their efforts to hire qualified candidates. Results: Search committee members who attended the workshop consistently rated it somewhat or very helpful in carrying out their roles. At one institution, the proportion of faculty members from underrepresented minority groups has increased each year that the workshop has been implemented. Discussion: The modules follow the work flow of a typical search process and are generalizable to any health professions department. While the challenge of diversifying the faculty involves many factors external to a university, calling search committee members’ attention to unconscious bias is a strategy that faculty affairs officers can control.


Cahn PS. Recognizing and reckoning with unconscious bias: a workshop for health professions faculty search committees. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2017;13:10544.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this 2-hour workshop, the learner will be able to:

  1. Define unconscious bias and explain its origins.
  2. Recognize how unconscious bias shapes judgments about candidates for health professions faculty positions.
  3. Generate ideas about how to minimize the impact of bias at different stages of the health professions faculty search process.


  • Faculty Affairs, Group on Faculty Affairs, GFA, Faculty Search Committees, Unconscious Bias, Cognitive Error, Faculty Recruitment, Underrepresented Minorities


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