Doctors Warn New Medical School Guidance Would Lead to Unqualified Physicians and Unscientific Medicine
Aaron Sibarium, Washington Free Beacon, November 29, 2021
The two accrediting bodies for American medical schools now say that meritocracy is “malignant” and that race has “no genetic or scientific basis,” positions that many doctors worry will lower standards of care and endanger lives by discouraging vital genetic testing.
The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits all medical schools in North America, is cosponsored by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)—the same groups that on Oct. 30 released a controversial guide to “advancing health equity” through “language, narrative, and concepts.”
Those concepts include the ideas that “individualism and meritocracy” are “malignant narratives” that “create harm,” that using race as a proxy for genetics “leads directly to racial health inequities,” and that medical vulnerability is the “result of socially created processes” rather than biology.
Integrating these ideas into medicine, five professors and practicing doctors told the Washington Free Beacon, would be a catastrophe, resulting in underqualified doctors, missed diagnoses, and unscientific medical school curricula.
The guidance won’t just influence the way doctors talk, these practitioners said, but also what they know and how they treat patients. It could even make them unwilling to screen racial minorities for serious conditions—including many types of cancer—that they are more likely to inherit, on the mistaken belief that genes play no role in racial health disparities.
“Some vulnerability isn’t about economic or social marginalization,” said Jeff Singer, a general surgeon in Arizona. “A lot of conditions”—such as Tay-Sachs, which disproportionately impacts Ashkenazi Jews, and triple-negative breast cancer, which disproportionately affects black women—”vary based on genetics. We’re talking about matters of life and death here.”
Several doctors also sounded the alarm about how the guide would impact admissions standards and curricular content at medical schools, which, in one professor’s words, “are at the total mercy of” their accreditors.
The guidance potentially implicates every stage of a doctor’s education: where they get in, what they’re tested on, how they’re graded, and who gives them residencies. In effect, it could change the way medicine measures merit—from objective criteria like grades and test scores to subjective criteria like diversity statements, which are increasingly common at medical schools.
One doctor predicted that the guide would result in a “disastrous” reluctance to flunk low-performing medical students and a “tripling down on affirmative action.” Another was even blunter: “This can kill people.”
The guide is the latest move by medical school accreditors to sideline merit in favor of diversity. The AMA and AAMC in 2012 implemented diversity standards that effectively mandated racial preferences at all medical schools. And in March 2020—as the coronavirus began to strain hospital services in New York City—the “Step 1” medical licensing exam moved from numerical scoring to pass-fail, a change many doctors said would make it harder to objectively evaluate residency applications.