The Supreme Court has ended affirmative action at medical schools, but some activists want to keep divisive, race-focused education firmly in place. Look no further than recent commentary published in the Milbank Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal published on behalf of the Milbank Memorial Fund. The commentary calls for accreditors and policymakers to force medical schools to teach more about “structural racism.”
The Milbank Memorial Fund has spent more than 100 years shaping medical school practices and medical policy. In a recent foray in this field, its quarterly journal published a comprehensive plan to make medical education even more divisive and discriminatory than it already is. The plan has three key planks:
- The Liaison Committee on Medical Education should develop and promulgate specific learning objectives and curricular offerings that require medical schools to teach about structural racism and antiracist medical practice in ways that are robust and standardized.
- The federal government, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, should prioritize support for antiracism education in medical schools, residency, and continuing medical education in similar ways and with similar effort in scale and scope to its support for primary care, providing technical assistance and grants for programs across the educational spectrum that provide antiracist training.
- State governments should mandate, as part of continuing education requirements for physicians, 2 or more hours per recertification cycle of antiracist training.
Nowhere do the authors provide any evidence that their recommendations would help improve the quality of care that doctors provide. Activists are simply hoping against reason and common sense that doctors can become trained and radicalized in topics like housing policy, education policy, and other topics native to fields like sociology and economics. These are not harmless goals. Rather, intense fixation on race crowds out the study of medicine. The more time doctors learn about so-called structural racism, the less time they spend learning to treat cancer, heart disease, or broken bones.
And what is structural racism? If it is economic, disadvantage, violent neighborhoods, poor K-12, education, and wealth differentials, what are doctors to do to mitigate these factors? Historically, when patients have had economic concerns regarding the cost of care or prescription medications, referral to social workers accomplished all that could be done to address these concerns. Current medical school curricula include discussions of social factors. Total revamping of the curriculum to expand more time on these issues is simply foolish.
And as the plan makes clear, the foundation wants policymakers and accreditors to force medical schools down this road.
They should do nothing of the kind. Accreditors and policymakers should ensure that medical education focuses on medicine, and medicine only. Anything less will further lower the quality of America’s future physicians – and jeopardize the care that the American people will receive.
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