OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
This is the continuation of the story of a conservative Christian in medical academia and practice. If you haven’t read part 1, find it HERE.
As I stated in part 1 of this story, it seems that left-leaning medical professionals these days are often vocal about their support of liberal narratives, while their right-leaning counterparts are carefully quiet on various controversial medical-related subjects. The few doctors who vocally oppose liberal narratives, even when they are objectively considered experts and highly published in their fields, face censorship, professional retribution, and unfounded professional criticism.
One concerned doctor, who is very close to me personally, has asked that I share his story anonymously to afford the public a glimpse into what medical academia and practice look like today for conservative Christian medical professionals. Due to numerous personal and professional warnings and threats he as recently received for saying unpopular but important things, he dares not risk his hard-earned career by attaching his name to his story, as he feels there is much good he can do by continuing in his medical profession. However, let his story serve as a testament to the current state of medical academia and practice, and an example of what conservative Christian medical professionals face in today’s society.
“The frequent forced injection of woke ideas was, I admit, nearly successful in converting me. On one occasion my parents visited me and I excitedly insisted on showing them segments of a video-documented research study that had been used in one of the mandatory sessions on implicit bias. The study had concluded that infants as young as four months old show racist tendencies. My parents were unconvinced, and I could not understand why. Only with hindsight after emerging from the fog of frequent mandatory woke sessions can I now look back and appreciate that infection by woke progressivism does not take long to overwhelm the passive immunity of conservatism transferred from parent to child.
For several weeks after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, students in my class received almost daily emails of condolences from nearly every consequential school administrator. A “safe space” session was arranged outside of work hours for students and faculty to express their grief or mental anguish about the election outcome. The email said everyone was welcome; so, out of genuine curiosity (at the time I was completely oblivious to the political climate), I went. Each person at the table – grown adults training to be physicians – took turns bawling their eyes out, completely beside themselves, spewing hate and anger and rage. Eventually, it was my turn to talk; in my state of shock and disbelief at what I was seeing, all I could say was, “I just came here to see what all the fuss was about.” As long as I live, I will never forget the way my classmates glared daggers at me; I could feel immediately that this was not actually a “safe space” for a person like me who didn’t absolutely despise Donald Trump and conservative values. After that meeting, most people went back to their usual pleasant selves – but that “safe space” really revealed to me the true character of many of my fellow physicians in training.
Once I got to clinical rotations (years 3 and 4), I learned more about what doctors are really like in practice. The hierarchy in the world of medicine is very real, and I certainly learned the hard way on multiple occasions that when the attending physician speaks in a patient’s room I should not speak unless spoken to, despite having relevant contributions. Once, in my fourth year, I told a patient recovering from exercise-induce rhabdomyolysis, in the presence of the treating resident, “Yes, don’t worry, I’m sure everything will be OK.” The resident took me outside the room and very sternly told me it was almost never appropriate to tell a patient, ‘It will be OK.’ I can see the reason for this mentality. Doctors acquire much more knowledge than their own clinical experience gives them; they hear other doctors’ experiences daily, attend frequent local and occasional national conferences, pour over the scientific literature often, and try their best to stay up to date with ever-changing guidelines. This causes a great hesitancy to say that “everything will be OK,” because their first- and second- and third-hand experience teaches them to be very guarded about each individual patient’s prognosis. I believe this extensive experience also causes some physicians to develop a resentment towards other doctors of different specialties who venture to opine on topics about which they feel they are the experts.
The clinical years of medical school were also replete with didactic sessions on the proper way to appraise scientific literature. I felt that my medical school was particularly bent on ensuring that its students were highly skilled in evaluating research studies for weaknesses and flaws. Still more educational sessions trained us to become quite competent in searching the massive research databases for answers to carefully worded clinical questions. All three standardized board exams (the USMLE STEP exams) progressively tested our knowledge of statistical and epidemiological principles. A prominent component of the final STEP exam was composed of fictitious research studies and drug company advertisements, which we had to evaluate, under timed conditions, to determine which statements could accurately and appropriately be concluded by the displayed data. This rigorous training and certification process is likely the reason most doctors truly believe they are more qualified than the general population to evaluate and interpret scientific literature. Interestingly, weeding out and accurately interpreting manipulative data has become a major issue in the last couple of years as the public is routinely misled due to their lack of this specialized training to interpret such data.
When it came time to submit my residency program rank list to the National Residency Match Program (NRMP), I placed a prestigious institution at the top of my list. I then discovered that one of my classmates – an African American female who had participated in research projects during medical school – had also ranked the same program as her number one. She matched to that program, and I (who did not do research in medical school) matched to the second program on my list – which, almost certainly, was a better fit for me.
I am currently in residency training, and I’m still mandated to attend regular diversity/equity/inclusion multi-hour “educational” sessions (which, naturally, cut into the time I would normally spend in on-the-job training). The doctors in my program who oppose unconstitutional vaccine mandates and other nonsensical Orwellian pandemic-related policies are in ideological hiding (and they’re so deep in hiding that it has taken me years to discover who they are). A publication in a prominent medical journal proposed measures to increase diversity in my specialty such as “promot[ing] diversity as a prerequisite for program excellence” and “de-emphasis on minimum [board] scores.” The medical school associated with my residency program committed to address the “disparity in clerkship grading” (key word being “grading”) after discovering that minority medical student groups have lower clerkship grades that correlate strongly with their MCAT scores and performance in pre-clinical courses. And, just when I thought the medical community couldn’t become more toxic, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) threatened to suspend or revoke the medical license of any physician who spreads “misinformation” about the COVID-19 vaccine. Unfortunately for many physicians and millions of unsuspecting patients, the medically and scientifically valid information they wish to “spread” is being labeled “misinformation,” thus requiring physicians to put their careers at risk in order to share important, albeit unpopular, information.
Despite this environment, I was enjoying residency training – until my medical career was once again nearly successfully sabotaged by a fellow physician. While in our resident workroom, I gave a virtual presentation about my chosen specialty to undecided medical students. In my presentation I showed some data relevant to my specialty from the NRMP Program Directors Survey Results. The graph showed that nearly 80% of surveyed residency program directors considered “diversity characteristics” when selecting medical student applicants to interview, while only half of those surveyed considered “leadership qualities.” I told my medical student audience that the NRMP Program Directors Survey was their best indication of the attributes that residency program directors currently value in applicants, and was an instruction manual, of sorts, for how they could craft their residency applications for maximum success in getting interviews.
Many of my fellow residents were in the room (not participating in my presentation) and overheard my statements. For my heinous crime of pointing out exactly what the data show about “diversity characteristics,” one of them filed an anonymous formal complaint to my residency program leadership. He/she is not naïve and undoubtedly knows that in the current social climate (and especially in academic medicine) complaints about anything related to “diversity” often sink careers. Anyone who works in an environment like mine will understand that this was a targeted effort to reach into my life and bring my aspirations of a successful medical career crashing down. By sheer stroke of luck, some of my residency program leadership were sympathetic to my values and ideas, and not opposed to sharing data that contradict the liberal narratives. They gave me an “informal” talking-to, and nothing was put in my professional record; but I can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if my medical school dean had been among my residency program leadership.
I have learned by my own experience that the medical community routinely protects incompetence, threatens those who point out incompetence, cancels those who promulgate true facts that contradict the liberal narratives, and is obsessed with diversity and related ideas to the point of downplaying or ignoring evidence of real-world achievement (or the lack thereof). The hierarchy reinforced in the world of academic medicine is perpetuated even after entering the workforce, so that those in positions of leadership (the FSMB and other physician associations) feel justified in silencing those they see as hierarchically inferior to them. And most doctors, especially the ones in charge, truly believe they own the corner on correct interpretation of scientific literature.
For better or for worse, my nature was to assume that all the people around me were good people who wanted me to succeed. But I am beginning to see that I was wrong. Now, I am forced to go to work every day knowing that one of my fellow physicians tried his/her best to knee-cap my career because I dared to say, using published data, that diversity is now valued more than leadership qualities in our own specialty. The field of medicine is still a rewarding career for me. I really enjoy the work that I do. Even if I had known of the medical community’s eventual intentions to purge itself of people like me, I still likely would have chosen it as my career path.
My only wish is that I and all my traditional ideas and values were accepted – or at least tolerated – rather than despised.”