Medical education officials at the University of Tennessee (UT) have expressed frustration with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that race-based admissions policies are unconstitutional, and they’re looking for pathways to realize their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, documents show.
Emails obtained by Do No Harm via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed that, on June 29, UT System President Randy Boyd emailed his statement regarding the ruling to Dr. Claudette Jones Shephard, associate dean of diversity and inclusion at the College of Medicine.
“Over the coming days and weeks, we will be diving into the details of this ruling to determine whether it will impact our campuses and institutes,” Boyd said in his statement to his UT colleagues, but added that, despite this review of the decision, “Our focus on access, retention and engagement, as well as our commitment to the mission of the UT System remains unchanged: to serve all Tennesseans and beyond through education, discovery and outreach.”
Boyd continued: “Education is the great equalizer and serves as an important foundation to democracy, and our great university system was created to serve all of the people of Tennessee through its land grant mission. We are committed to ensuring Tennessee continues to model educational opportunity for everyone.”
“I look forward to hearing from your office on next steps,” Shephard responded to Boyd’s statement.
In a subsequent email to UT Chancellor Dr. Peter Buckley, Shephard expressed again she was “happy to see this response from President Boyd.”
“I forwarded it to our Council on Inclusion and Diversity members to make sure they knew the institution would be addressing it and there was more information to come,” she added. “Sometimes our silence on topics speaks louder than words (and I am aware that many do not open emails from the larger system…).
Other officials also weighed in with their take on the Court’s decision. On June 30, the day after the Court released its ruling, Dr. Melody Cunningham, of the UT Health Science Center College of Medicine, emailed her colleagues with the greeting, “Good morning, all, I hope you have rejuvenating plans for the holiday weekend … and can leave the angst about the Supreme Court decision on Affirmative Action to the side for the weekend. Arggh!”
The FOIA documents also revealed UT College of Medicine officials sharing a notice of a webinar provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) titled “The Recent SCOTUS Decisions on Race-conscious Admissions and Implications for Academic Medicine.”
“In this webinar on July 10, Frank Trinity, JD and Heather Alarcon, JD, the AAMC’s legal counsel, will discuss these decisions and potential implications for improving the diversity in medical and other health professions schools and the health care and medical research workforce,” the announcement read.
The emails obtained by Do No Harm also showed UT medical college officials sharing “resources” from other left-leaning organizations, such as the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, both of which denounced the Court’s ruling on affirmative action policies.
Shephard also thanked Paul Schwartzberg of Erlanger Health System for sharing with her the statement from Dr. Thomas Nasca, president and CEO of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), who wrote in his “Follow-Up” to a June 13 letter about other “strategies and tools available that can be utilized in institutions’ achievement of their mission-oriented workforce plans.”
“Some of these alternative strategies can be found in the ACGME Equity MattersTM Equity Practice Toolkit,” Nasca noted.
In his statement, Nasca touted the DEI radical narrative that “research confirms that being treated by a racially diverse care team, or by physicians with exposure to diverse professional or educational environments, greatly increases the likelihood of positive medical outcomes, particularly for patients from minoritized backgrounds,” a statement that suggests the view that patients from minority groups recover more quickly or completely when treated by doctors of a particular racial or political identity, rather than those who have achieved a high level of medical competence.
Do No Harm Chairman Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, however, rejects claims of “any solid evidence that a more diverse workforce leads to better clinical outcomes.”
“We have looked at this carefully and found no real evidence for racial concordance between patients and physicians providing better outcomes,” Goldfarb recently told National Review. “The data claiming otherwise is scanty and contradictory.”
In April 2023, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a bill that begins to roll back DEI requirements at publicly funded colleges and universities – including medical schools.
As Do No Harm has noted, the Tennessee Higher Education Freedom of Expression and Transparency Act includes one provision that prohibits the requirement of DEI statements from employment and admission applicants, and another that bans medical schools from using state funds for fees, dues, subscriptions, or travel relating to an organization that requires an individual to endorse or promote a divisive concept.
Tennessee’s approach “should be a model for every other state that wants to ensure its medical schools uphold the highest standards of education and excellence in health care,” Do No Harm has stated.
Get up to speed with the threats facing healthcare – and how we’re protecting patients and physicians.
"*" indicates required fields