The Rise of Intersectionality
Recently chemistry professor Dr. Maitland Jones Jr. was fired after 82 of his students signed a petition noting that his organic chemistry class was “too hard.” The students accused Jones of purposely making the class difficult, citing that their low scores negatively impacted their “well-being,” and their chances of getting into medical school. Instead of evaluating the rigor and substance of Jones’ curriculum, NYU justified its hasty action by noting the class’s unfavorable student reviews.
In response to the disciplinary action, former medical humanities professor and bioethicist Dr. Alice Dreger blasted the move in a tweet, saying it “made her skin crawl.”
“We aren’t going to end up with good doctors by letting undergrad pre-meds pass organic chem because universities want to protect their US News rankings,” she wrote.
The reaction is justified considering how standards for pre-med programs and even medical schools have shifted in the direction of equity and social justice. It seems that even professors cannot hold the line on academic performance, when the institutions they teach at make it a secondary importance to accommodating students’ sensitivities on the basis of how faulted or victimized they feel while learning in the highly competitive and demanding field of medicine.
The shift in a medicine-based education to an emphasis on race and social concern was highlighted by former University of Pennsylvania Medical School Dean Stanley Goldfarb, who stated:
“…Today a master’s degree in education is often what it takes to qualify for key administrative roles on medical-school faculties. The zeitgeist of sociology and social work have become the driving force in medical education. The goal of today’s educators is to produce legions of primary care physicians who engage in what is termed ‘population health.’”
Medical schools’ administrations seem to have become taken over by sociologists and critical race theorists—if not in title, then certainly in practice.
Most recently in the news, the University of Minnesota Medical School conducted a white coat ceremony for its Class of 2026, where each student had to recite a modified Hippocratic Oath which—on top of pledging to do no harm and to help the sick whenever possible—would “honor all Indigenous ways of healing that have been historically marginalized by Western medicine…white supremacy, colonialism, and the gender binary.”
The politicization of medicine has greater effects than just this sort of political white-knighting. Instead of focusing on promoting preventative care and treatment based on actual medical effectiveness, the impetus behind these medical schools’ actions seems to be entirely race-based. For example, Georgetown University is funding the study and formation of courses to prevent ‘microaggressions’ in medicine.
Likewise, the Association of American Medical Colleges released a new standard for teaching medicine which requires students to achieve ‘competencies’ in ‘white privilege’ or risk failing. It also seeks to do away with the ideas of gender and race, the latter of which the AAMC describes as “… a social construct that is a cause of health and health care inequities, not a risk factor for disease.” If this is the case, then how will doctors address the pervasiveness of Sickle-Cell Anemia and Multiple Myeloma in African-American communities, the prevalence of diabetes in Asian groups, or the largely unknown effects of hormonal therapies in minors?
This Strategy’s Practical Consequences
This dramatic shift from upholding course standards to molding medicine in a racial lens is concerning. Though proponents of such measures would argue this is critical to improving race-relations in medicine and to deconstructing students’ “implicit biases,” saving lives and providing exceptional preventative care supersedes that.
A 2016 BMJ analysis found that medical errors in health-care facilities are actually incredibly common and may even be the third-leading cause of death in the US. Medical malpractice accounts for about 251,000 deaths every year—this is more than accidents.