To the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine:
Disappointment. That’s the reaction that we, the undersigned, and countless others recently had when reading what is supposed to be the most prestigious journal in American medicine. As medical professionals, we turn to your pages for serious and thoughtful research and analysis. Instead, in your April 22 article, “Racial Affinity Group Caucusing in Medical Education—a Key Supplement to Antiracist Curricula,” we found an argument for medical schools to create student groups segregated by skin color.
The authors essentially state that medical students who are “black, indigenous, and people of color,” or “BIPOC,” are incapable of succeeding in the presence of students of other races, especially white students. They assert without evidence that BIPOC students need “a space without white people,” where they can “bring their whole selves” and “heal from racial trauma together” – implying that white people are inherently menacing. The authors even urge “pedagogical approaches that support the needs of BIPOC learners,” suggesting that students of certain races can’t deal with the rigors of medical education. In fact, diverse students of all backgrounds currently thrive in medical school.
It is difficult to understand how such offensive language made it past the gatekeepers of this prestigious institution. In these same pages, authors and editors have been covering the unprecedented exodus of physicians and other staff leaving the clinical profession due to demoralization, burnout, and toxic work environments. Have you considered the possibility that divisive and highly politicized pieces such as this might be worsening this crisis, in addition to moving medical education toward segregation?
We join with diverse medical professionals in calling for real solutions to the root causes of persistent health disparities. Divisive and racist language will only hold back progress. The Journal should apologize for running such an illiberal and extremist article, and ask itself why it was published in the first place. Anything less sends a deeply concerning message about the priorities – and indeed, the principles – of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Stanley Goldfarb, MD
Chairman of the Board
Do No Harm
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