The same divisive ideology that’s corrupting K-12 schools and threatening funding for public safety is rapidly taking over healthcare. It goes by many names: “Critical Race Theory,” “anti-racism,” “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” and more. But whatever you call it, it destroys patient trust in healthcare and leads to racial discrimination that hurts patient health. Look no further than a major conference taking place in Colorado Springs this week.
From July 30 to August 2, the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation is gathering in this city. ABIM, as the board is called, certifies tens of thousands of physicians who provide life-saving care to tens of millions of Americans. Yet like virtually every healthcare institution these days, this group is putting identity politics ahead of caring for individual patients.
The two of us come at this issue from different angles. We are, respectively, a white Jewish physician who’s devoted his career to teaching medical students, and a black South African immigrant and patient advocate who came to America after living through the racial discrimination of apartheid. We’ll say at the outset that ABIM is surely well-intentioned. But its actions are a direct threat to physicians and patients alike.
To start, the board is pushing dangerous concepts like “structural racism” and “implicit bias.” It’s essentially saying that healthcare is harmful to minority patients, and worse, that physicians themselves are inherently prejudiced against people who don’t look like them. Yet ABIM provides no credible evidence to prove this brazen assertion. And by accusing physicians of being biased or racist, the board is ruining the trust on which healthcare depends.
Think about it. If you’re a black patient and someone tells you that healthcare is racist and your physician is biased, would you seek out medical care? Repeating this claim will drive people away from healthcare and hurt their health. That’s the last thing a medical institution like ABIM should want. Incredibly, promoting trust in healthcare and countering misinformation is one of the major themes of this week’s conference, yet distrust and misinformation are exactly what it’s spreading.
What’s more, the board has promised to be “actively anti-racist.” While that sounds nice in principle, in practice, it means endorsing racial discrimination. The founder of anti-racism has explicitly said so. In the context of healthcare, anti-racism means forcing physicians to provide different levels of access to people of different colors. What’s worse, it means providing different standards of care.
This is truly terrifying. Physicians have a duty to treat every patient fairly, providing them with the best care possible. And patients’ lives literally depend on it.
Sadly, the board is spreading these dangerous ideas far and wide. It’s spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to indoctrinate medical professionals, while naively claiming it will build “a more trustworthy health system.” Finally, by pushing physicians to spend more time on identity politics, the board is inherently giving them less time to focus on concepts and practices that actually matter to medicine. The board is lowering the standard of medical care, while claiming to be raising the bar.
Sadly, what’s happening at the American Board of Internal Medicine is the same thing that’s happening across virtually the entire medical field. Hospitals are experimenting with preferential race-based care. Medical schools are lowering standards (and endangering patient) in the name of diversity. And policymakers are pushing providers to fixate on race and gender above anything else.
What’s happening at the conference this week in Colorado Springs should worry everyone. As a white physician and black patient advocate, we urge people to take notice – and take action to drive these divisive and discriminatory ideas out of healthcare.
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