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Opinion Pieces

DEI Is Poisoning American Medical Training

  • DEI Presser Newsletter

Across the United States, race-based discrimination and the negative and divisive tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are infiltrating American medical schools and accrediting boards. Characteristics like skin color and adherence to DEI ideology are being prioritized above student qualifications. The ability and education of America’s newest physicians, and the health of our nation’s future patients, will perilously atrophy, unless something changes.

Just last week, during a mandatory course on “structural racism” for first-year medical students at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), a guest speaker led chants of “Free, Free Palestine,” and referred to the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks against Jews as “justice.” She then demanded students bow down to “mama earth,” and led what she described as a “non-secular prayer” to “the ancestors.” In the mandatory first-year course, “Structural Racism and Health Equity,” the aspiring medical doctors were told that modern medicine is “white science” and asked to stand for a second so-called prayer against the “occupation” of “Turtle Island” – i.e., the United States.

In addition to mandatory DEI classes, medical students, staff, and faculty are finding that placement or promotion hinged on “pledges” to affirm and adopt the poisonous and parasitic tenets of DEI. A recent investigation into Duke University’s private health system revealed its health facilities recruit based on race rather than merit.

As a physician and a lawmaker, I strongly believe that our nation’s future physicians should not be ruled in, or ruled out, because of their skin color or beliefs. They should be evaluated and judged on merit -- on who they are, what they have achieved, and their ability to be a competent and compassionate caregiver. Evaluating medical students on anything other than the content of their character and their competency goes against everything our nation stands for.

As Americans, we instill, at a young age, the belief that the path to opportunity is built through merit. I knew in second grade that I wanted to be a physician. I knew it was going to take effort, sacrifice, and hard work – and I knew it wasn’t going to be given to me. Since the civil-rights movement, America has worked very hard to ensure that there is equal opportunity. Diversity means people from all zip codes should have the ability to attend a quality school and receive a good education, which is why I stand for school choice. We need to ensure opportunities exist early by keeping standards high and raising our expectations for students.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed the expansion of women and minority participation in medicine, and never once doubted their capabilities and credentials. Standards are standards -- or, they once were. If gender or skin color are a required standard, this is discriminatory and illegal.

Diversity does not mean we can guarantee outcomes. Imagine if DEI were practiced by professional sports teams. Sports follows a merit-based system. Yet no lives are on the line if professional teams select less accomplished, less meritorious athletes.

In my experience, patients are drawn to physicians they feel will heal and cure them – regardless of color, gender, religion, or politics.

But we are seeing the poison of DEI seep into everything. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the FDA circulated guidance on the usage of the limited supply of therapeutics that placed race-based valuations over many more important criteria for the treating, evaluation, and helping of patients.

Administrators at one public medical school are actively opposing the U.S. Supreme Court and its decisions in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for University of North Carolina, which ended the affirmative-action regime in which schools elevated race above merit when making admissions decisions. Deans at the University of Colorado School of Medicine have vowed to continue utilizing DEI-related processes wherever possible in considering applicants to their graduate medical school programs.

An award-winning surgical resident in North Carolina said his "heart sinks" when he has to treat Donald Trump supporters or Fox News viewers, and he celebrates when his patient population is majority non-white. Does it surprise you to learn that he is not ashamed to publicly proclaim he won’t “amplify” medical literature from “white men who collaborate with only other white men”?

Physicians should, first, do no harm; and they should treat patients as they would themselves and their families. For the last 60 years, our nation worked very hard to fight for equality. It’s devastating to see ugly race-based discrimination, under its new guise as DEI, threatening to rewind the clock several decades. Will today’s students have their qualifications, education, and training questioned by their peers -- and their patients?

Your taxpayer dollars are funding DEI’s toxic infection on our nation and health system – and I believe that needs to stop. I joined my friend and fellow physician, Representative Greg Murphy (R., N.C.), in introducing the EDUCATE Act to prohibit federal funding both of medical schools that discriminate based on race or ethnicity, and of medical schools that direct or compel students, staff, or faculty to pledge, affirm, or adopt DEI tenets. This bill helps ensure that best practices in medical education are followed equally, for all, so our future health system has public trust and the best patient outcomes.

I treated thousands of patients that didn’t look like me, or hold my religious beliefs, and yet we developed caring and trusting relationships. When I was chief of surgery at Abu Ghraib Prison, I treated enemies like Chemical Ali. The care I gave him was exactly the same as I would have administered to any other patient -- as it should be.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he proclaimed the vision of our nation as a place where people would be not “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It’s important that we take these measures now to keep our nation from moving backward. 

This article first ran in the National Review.