Competition for the most prestigious post-graduate medical residency programs is fierce, with a proven track record of elevating the best physicians. Yet anti-racist ideology is now corrupting the residency evaluation process. Not only will patient care suffer, but the most elite and privileged physicians stand to gain the most.
The United States Medical Licensing Examination is the test that future physicians take before being assigned to a residency. Earlier this year, it ditched a numerical grading score in its first section. Instead of receiving a numerical grade, future physicians would instead get a “pass” or a “fail.” Driven by woke activists, the organizations behind the exam argued that a pass/fail system would lead to a more diverse group of physicians chosen on a “holistic” basis. This fits with the anti-racist claim that meritocracy is merely a manifestation of systemic racism.
But a growing body of evidence proves the foolishness of this decision. Previously, the first part of the USMLE test gave residency evaluators the best gauge of a candidate’s abilities. Now, without any objective criteria for choosing residents, students are increasingly selected based on the ranking of their medical schools. This hurts minority applicants from the lower ranked medical schools, including those affiliated with historically Black colleges and universities. It also hurts other outstanding students from other less prestigious medical schools.
What’s more, the pass/fail system discourages medical excellence by incentivizing medical students not to study hard, as various specialties have pointed out. Residency directors are also frustrated that it’s now much harder to ensure that they’re picking the best candidates who will provide the best care. In both cases, the result is worse patient care over time, driven by a decline in the quality of residency participants.
Even woke residency program directors are frustrated. A new study at the National Library of Medicine concludes that, given the failure of the new pass/fail system, “further changes are needed to promote equity.” Here’s an idea: Go back to the proven system of evaluating medical students, which is the best way to find talented physicians who provide the best care.
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