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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Appeared in the July 27, 2022, print edition.