Definition and use of the variable "race" by medical students in Salvador, Brazil
Michele Souza Dantas da Silva
Luciana Muniz Pinto
Maria Betânia Pereira Toralles
KeywordsContinental population groups
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AbstractCONTEXT AND OBJECTIVE: The lack of a clear definition for human "race" and the importance of this topic in medical practice continue to create doubt among scholars. Here, we evaluate the use of the variable "race" by medical students in Salvador, Brazil. DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional study at a Brazilian federal public university. METHODS: 221 randomly selected subjects were included. A semi-structured questionnaire was used for data collection. The results were expressed as means and standard deviations of the mean, proportions and frequencies. The χ2 (chi-square) test was used for the statistical calculations. RESULTS: Approximately half of the students (45.4%) used the racial group variable in their studies on clinical practice. Of these, 86.8% considered it to be relevant information in the medical records and 92.7%, important for diagnostic reasoning; 95.9% believed that it influenced the cause, expression and prevalence of diseases; 94.9% affirmed that it contributed towards estimating the risk of diseases; 80.5% thought that the therapeutic response to medications might be influenced by racial characteristics; 41.9% considered that its inclusion in research was always recommendable; and 20.3% thought it was indispensable. The main phenotypic characteristics used for racial classification were: skin color (93.2%), hair type (45.7%), nose shape (33.9%) and lip thickness (30.3%). CONCLUSIONS: Despite the importance of different racial groups in medical practice, the majority of the professionals do not use or know how to classify them. It is necessary to add to and/or expand the discussion of racial and ethnic categories in medical practice and research.