Doctors are experts in their craft. But that expertise doesn’t always translate to other disciplines. Newly published commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlights the perils of medical mission creep and the belief that doctors can and should solve all of the world’s problems.
“Diversifying the medical pathway in a post-affirmative action world” begins with lamentation about the Supreme Court’s decision on race-based college admissions. In what has become a familiar pattern, they cherry pick a small number of studies which suggest that patients receive better care from doctors of their own race or ethnicity. In so doing, they ignore a much larger body of evidence which indicates that no such phenomenon exists.
The authors propose various “solutions” to the imagined problem of the Court’s decision. Their very first solution observes that “the foundational steps to a medical career often start in grade school.” Consequently, “we first propose the earnest effort to achieve equity in funding for public K-12 schools…[as] to invest equally in each K-12 student.” The writers envision seeing benefits downstream since “school district expenditures on education have a significant impact on student education outcomes.”
The claim that K-12 schools inequitably underfund black students is empirically false. Districts tend to spend modestly higher amounts of money on black students compared to white students in the same district. Moreover, the average black student attends a district that spends slightly more per student compared to the average white student.
Claims that “expenditures have a significant impact on student education outcomes” are no less dubious. As Do No Harm Senior Fellow Jay Greene has documented, “evidence” that causally links spending to achievement outcomes is rife with statistical manipulation that fails to hold up to even the slightest amount of scrutiny.
JAMA editors clearly envision no limit to the problems that doctors can solve. Just last month, an editorial called on doctors to take on a leading role in advocating for the reduction of nuclear weapon stockpiles.
If the most recent example provides any indication, doctors operating outside of their expertise makes for bad medicine.
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