Medical Education Goes Woke

The woke dom­i­na­tion of Amer­i­can higher ed­u­ca­tion can seem trag­i­cally comic when it’s con­fined to the Eng­lish de­part­ment. But when it in­fil­trates the hard sciences, far more is at stake. Read and wince at how woke pol­i­tics is about to infect med­ical ed­u­ca­tion.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­can Med­ical Col­leges (AAMC) is a non­profit based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., that rep­re­sents and ad­vises med­ical schools. It also has influence with the Li­ai­son Com­mit­tee on Med­ical Ed­u­ca­tion, the na­tional accreditor that sets med-school stan­dards. So when the AAMC tells schools to revise how they teach, Amer­i­ca’s fu­ture physi­cians will be obliged to lis­ten.

The AAMC re­cently re­leased a re­port de­scrib­ing the new “di­ver­sity, eq­uity and inclusion com­pe­ten­cies” that med­ical stu­dents and res­i­dents will be ex­pected to mas­ter. Prac­tic­ing physi­cians who work at teach­ing hos­pi­tals may also soon be required to un­dergo this form of, well, po­lit­i­cal re-ed­u­ca­tion.

As a start­ing point, as­pir­ing doc­tors will have to be­come flu­ent in woke con­cepts such as “in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity,” which the AAMC de­fines as “over­lap­ping sys­tems of oppression and dis­crim­i­na­tion that com­mu­ni­ties face based on race, gen­der, ethnicity, abil­ity, etc.” Med stu­dents who man­aged to avoid learn­ing crit­i­cal race the­ory in col­lege will now get an im­mer­sive course.

They will also be ex­pected to demon­strate “knowl­edge of the in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity of a pa­tient’s mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties”—not to be con­fused with per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders—and “how each iden­tity may re­sult in var­ied and mul­ti­ple forms of op­pres­sion or privilege re­lated to clin­i­cal de­ci­sions and prac­tice.” This sounds as if every med­ical di­ag­no­sis will have to be made with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing po­lit­i­cal and so­ci­o­log­i­cal analy­sis.

As­pir­ing doc­tors will have to learn that race is a “so­cial con­struct that is a cause of health and health care in­equities, not a risk fac­tor for dis­ease.” Yet racial or eth­nic groups do some­times have a greater propen­sity for cer­tain health prob­lems. For in­stance, black women are at higher risk for a type of breast can­cer known as triple-neg­a­tive and women of Ashke­nazi Jew­ish her­itage are at greater risk of the BRCA gene mu­ta­tion.

Re­la­tion­ships be­tween race and dis­ease aren’t al­ways well un­der­stood, but knowing they ex­ist can im­prove mi­nor­ity pa­tient out­comes. It doesn’t help patients with im­me­di­ate needs for a doc­tor to as­sume that their con­di­tion is re­ally about the “sys­tems of power, priv­i­leges, and op­pres­sion” in so­ci­ety.

Med stu­dents will also be ex­pected to ar­tic­u­late how their own “iden­ti­ties, power, and priv­i­leges (e.g., pro­fes­sional hi­er­ar­chy, cul­ture, class, gen­der) in­flu­ence interactions with pa­tients” as well as “the im­pact of var­i­ous sys­tems of op­pres­sion on health and health care (e.g. col­o­niza­tion, White su­premacy, ac­cul­tur­a­tion, assimilation).”

Most young peo­ple who pur­sue a ca­reer in med­i­cine want to help pa­tients. Now they will be taught that “an in­tri­cate web of so­cial, be­hav­ioral, eco­nomic, and environmental fac­tors, in­clud­ing ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and hous­ing, have greater in­flu­ence on pa­tients’ health than physi­cians do,” AAMC lead­ers write in a Stat­News op-ed trum­pet­ing their new woke cur­ricu­lum. The im­plicit mes­sage is that the best way to help pa­tients is to ex­pand the size and scope of gov­ern­ment.

So­cial and eco­nomic cir­cum­stances clearly can af­fect in­di­vid­ual health be­hav­ior. But the hy­per-class and -racial con­scious­ness that the AAMC wants to in­still in doc­tors may re­sult in worse care for mi­nori­ties. “Sys­tems of op­pres­sion” as a standard of analy­sis could eas­ily be­come med­ical fa­tal­ism.

AAMC lead­ers write fur­ther in Stat­News that “we be­lieve this topic de­serves just as much at­ten­tion from learn­ers and ed­u­ca­tors at every stage of their ca­reers as the lat­est sci­en­tific break­throughs.” That sounds dan­ger­ous. Will learn­ing about mRNA tech­nol­ogy or the lat­est treat­ment for melanoma take a back seat to new the­o­ries of cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion?

America faces a looming and severe doctor shortage as baby boomers retire. It won’t help attract prospective doctors to tell top students they must attend to their guilt as racial and political oppressors before they can diagnose your cancer.

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