Unconscious Bias Information for Selection Committees

Unconscious Bias Information for Selection Committees

Unconscious Bias Training Resources

The Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) office at the University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its community. Selection committee members should understand the important implications of unconscious bias and review equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) statements and resources.

It is important to increase knowledge and awareness about unconscious bias and outline what fair processes are considered in PGME admissions. It has been documented that internalized biases can affect many areas of work including the admissions process. It is recommended that selection committee members participate in implicit bias training and attest to this being completed and reflected upon.

It is important to note that unconscious bias is just one small area of focus for organizational training and education within the realm of equity, diversity and inclusion. Having all selection committee members sign off on the IAT or any other form of unconscious bias training does not guarantee equity is applied as a guiding principle throughout recruitment and selection processes, but it does provide a helpful platform for self-reflection and dialogue. More important than encouraging selection committee members to do unconscious bias training is to create space and time to debrief this experience before the start of a selections process, and also to explore the connections between unconscious bias, equity, diversity, inclusion, and excellence. The "University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine’s 2018-2023 Academic Strategic Plan highlights “Excellence through Equity” as one of the three core pillars of the Faculty’s focus in the coming years. Initiatives such as unconscious bias training and equity training are important to engage in to encourage and foster excellence in scholarship, research, clinical practice, and administration throughout the organization. Equity education should not just take place in the form of one-off initiatives but should consist of intentional and purposeful actions and goals that continue beyond one training session or discussion. We encourage all departments to incorporate the “excellence through equity” framework in CaRMS selection processes, and to familiarize themselves with the University of Toronto’s policies on equity, diversity, inclusion and human rights.

This document is meant to provide useful information and resources for the 2021 CaRMS process and is subject to change. Colleagues across the Temerty Faculty of Medicine are in the process of developing a tool kit that with cover all aspects of equity, diversity and inclusion information and training. Each selection committee should also adhere to their own institutional and/or departmental commitments and procedures around EDI principles in their processes. In some departments, faculty and residents have already taken local training in a variety of areas including unconscious bias. This document is meant to support those programs who do not already have formal processes or training already in place.

Unconscious Bias

What is unconscious bias?

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University defines unconscious or implicit bias as attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases can be positive or negative and differ from known biases that people may intentionally hide.

How can we change our biases?   

Several organizations have arranged Unconscious Bias training programs to expose people to their unconscious biases, provide tools to adjust automatic patterns of thinking, and ultimately eliminate discriminatory behaviors. 

Unconscious Bias training programs often involve taking a pretest to assess baseline implicit bias levels, performing unconscious bias training tasks, taking a post-test and reflecting on what has been learned.

Below are online resources that provide assessment and training for unconscious bias

  1. Assessing baseline

Harvard’s Implicit Association Test (IAT)  has provided a platform for the general public to understand attitudes, stereotypes, and other hidden biases that influence perception, judgment, and action. This is a useful resource to drive an understanding about intrinsic bias however is not proven to result in change. Therefore, it is not enough to solely complete this test as the only tool to learn about unconscious bias.

  1. Unconscious Bias training:
  1. The Toronto Initiative for Diversity & Excellence (TIDE) led by Maydianne Andrade, Canada Research Chair and Vice-Dean, Faculty Affairs & Equity at UTSC and Bryan Gaensler, Canada Research Chair and Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, presented scientific evidence of unconscious bias. The video is about 1-hr in length. A copy of their slides is available by linking on the following links -  Andrade slidesGaensler slides.
  2. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers a free online seminar on The Science of Unconscious Bias and What To Do About it in the Search and Recruitment ProcessThis provides useful information regarding unconscious bias for search committees in academic medicine.


Each program can choose what they would like their selections to complete. However, it is suggested that each participating selection committee member review “The Science of Unconscious Bias and What To Do About It in the Search and Recruitment Process” (section 2B above). Completion of the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) can also be performed, recognizing that this alone has not proven to make change. The selection committee should reflect upon what has been learned.

Acknowledgement Form

After completing the e-learning module, kindly complete the Acknowledgement Form prior to undertaking any committee work in Medical Imaging. If you have previously completed the e-learning module, you do not need to complete this module again. 

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Linda Probyn (linda.probyn@sunnybrook.ca) or Anita Balakrishna, Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at anita.balakrishna@utoronto.ca