The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Opinion | DEI is a vital part of medical education

The EDUCATE Act aims to compel medical schools to shut down DEI programs. If passed, this would hurt both patient care and physicians’ advocacy training, worsening population health.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the medical field are under attack, including in Iowa.

Last month, Rep. Greg Murphy, R-North Carolina, introduced the Embracing Anti-Discrimination, Unbiased Curricula, and Advancing Truth in Education (EDUCATE) Act into the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill seeks to revoke federal funding from U.S. medical schools that “force students or faculty to adopt specific beliefs, discriminate based on race or ethnicity, or have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices.”

Murphy, the author of the bill and a physician, argues on his website that while diversity is important in medicine, the pursuit of diversity should not force medical students and professionals to sign diversity statements affirming that “individuals of any race, sex, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior.”

On programs such as “The Ben Shapiro Show,” Murphy has remarked his astonishment at the discriminatory admissions process that has resulted in “hardly literally any white men” at UCLA’s medical school. He emphasizes the importance of simply educating students to provide the best possible medical care to the individual patient in front of them.

Of course, patients deserve the best care possible. Unfortunately, however, Murphy’s arguments dramatically oversimplify the role physicians play in society, presumably to fit the “anti-woke” narrative.

Iowa City is home to one of the two medical schools in Iowa, the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. As a current medical student there myself and a white man who has been — as Murphy alleges — “discriminated” against, I can solidly attest that the DEI curriculum is integral to a comprehensive medical education.

Learning biomedicine is an undoubtedly difficult endeavor that requires discipline, patience, and hard work. However, the most intellectually demanding aspect of my clinical education has been learning to assess and navigate daily one-off encounters with complete strangers, often with completely different backgrounds than me.

Physicians must interpret a patient’s unique narrative into a cohesive medical story and work within the context of that patient’s lifestyle and environment to develop an appropriate treatment plan, all the while building a trusting interpersonal relationship with them.

Patient care is tremendously more complex than “simply providing gold-standard care.” To even suggest as much is frankly absurd.

At the core of DEI initiatives is the exploration of humanistic openness, which, in addition to providing a foundation on which to handle the “soft skills” of patient encounters, teaches students to recognize opportunities for societal improvement. Also, well within physicians’ scope of practice is advocating for systemic change.

Recognizing and solving issues that negatively affect a specific population is an additional path to improving overall health outcomes. While there are many past and present examples of racial health disparities, systemic health issues are by no means limited to race, as the bill largely suggests. Veterans, immigrants, and low-income residents are all examples of several marginalized populations with specific health susceptibilities.

The removal of DEI initiatives from medical education would produce physicians who are less apt advocates for all of these groups and more.

DEI initiatives are not a pervasive elitist brainwashing program. They offer a compassionate approach to understanding our fellow humans so we may best serve their needs according to their unique backgrounds.

Our patients deserve the most competent, humanistic, and academically excellent physicians. DEI is vital to medical education.

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