Transitional Justice: Advocating for a Politico-Legal Framework in Medical Education to Advance Health Equity
Emily McNeill, Toluwani Dawodu, Cassie Tarleton, Ahmed Owda, and Hetty Cunningham
Transitional Justice (TJ) is a framework used by authoritarian governments to address systemic human rights violations. Transitional justice has been used in educational settings previously, notably in post-conflict societies such as Rwanda and South Africa. As medical schools nationwide alter their curriculums to focus on anti-racism and equity, we believe TJ can be particularly useful in informing these reform efforts. The goal of TJ in education is to enable students to recognize and understand past human rights abuses, to evaluate multiple perspectives in historic wrongdoing, and to determine how to advocate for a more equitable future in the context of injustice. TJ can be divided into the following categories: reparations, truth-telling, accountability, and reform. Within education, these categories are carried out via structural reform, curriculum change, teaching approaches, and school culture. We applied the TJ framework to the Vagelow College of Physicians and Surgeons Equity and Justice Fellowship, a cohort of students overseen by a faculty member in the medical school, which aids in creating antiracist additions to the medical school curriculum and learning environment. TJ was used to inform the goals, actions, and outputs of the fellowship as well as identify areas for evolution for related anti-racist reform efforts. In applying TJ, we were able to organize current and future projects, as well as identify reparation-focused efforts as an area of need within the fellowship’s work.
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