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Ideology over Education


By Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute

The state of graduate medical education gets too little attention, but the next generation of medicine is being shaped by what is happening right now.

Covid school closures were a disaster, including for medical students, but the problems have been brewing much longer as curricula increasingly prioritize a “woke” agenda over scientific education.

Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a former associate dean of curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, wrote about this in The Wall Street Journal in 2019 in his op-ed:  “Take Two Aspirin and Call Me by My Pronouns.”

“[C]oncerns about social justice have taken over undergraduate education,” he wrote, warning about the “focus on climate change, social inequities, gun violence, bias and other progressive causes only tangentially related to treating illness.”

Physicians across the country are worried about this accelerating trend, discussed by Dr. Goldfarb at a recent webinar hosted by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. 

Many students say they are admitted to medical schools only if they give the “right” answers to a litany of woke questions. Students are being indoctrinated to see skin color as the most important thing about a patient. 

Dr. Marilyn Singleton wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed that she “graduated with a medical degree in 1973, a Black woman in a class of mostly White men.”

“Since I became a physician, I have seen exactly one instance of racism in health care — and it was from a patient, not a fellow physician. As for my colleagues, I have been consistently impressed with the conscientious, individualized care they have provided to patients of every race and culture. When we all took our oath to ‘first, do no harm,’ we meant it, and we live it.”

Yet eradicating “white racism” is has become a top priority, not just in medical education but in medical practice.  California is requiring all physicians who engage in direct patient care to participate in “implicit bias training” to keep their licenses. 

The California law, which took effect last year, also includes bias training on gender identity, but it “is overwhelmingly about race,” Dr. Singleton writes. “I reject the unscientific accusation that people are defined by their race, not by their individual beliefs and choices.”

Yet this woke ideology is being infused into medical education through the well-funded progressive agenda.  

A number of the nation’s top medical schools, starting with #1 ranked Harvard, have withdrawn their participation in the U.S. News & World Report‘s annual rankings of the “best medical schools.” Most said the criteria do not reflect priorities of their curricula, which includes a strong focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and that the rankings focus too much on standardized test scores, reputation and institutional wealth.

Physicians tell me they do complain to medical school administrators that students aren’t be properly prepared to care for actual patients.  One administrator’s reply:  There is “too much science” in the curriculum and students “can just look it up” if they need answers.

Many of today’s physicians are particularly horrified by so called “gender-affirming care” for children that involves irreversible surgical mutilation and dangerous puberty-blocking hormones. 

What is the policy solution?  It starts with governors and state legislators who have jurisdiction over many state universities and medical schools and with supporting organizations working to educate policymakers and the public about these issues to find the proper balance to assure quality medical education.


Grace-Marie Turner runs the Galen Institute, a public policy research organization that she founded in 1995 to promote an informed debate over free-market ideas for health reform.