Writing in Quilette, Dr. Sally Satel declared that "indoctrinologists" were distracting medical professionals from their rightful purpose. Satel and others have pointed to examples like Boston physicians arguing for racial preferences in admissions.
Fox News has also reported on the American Medical Association's (AMA) endorsement of critical race theory and using the type of theoretical buzzwords that have emerged in institutions across the country.
"In important ways, I hardly recognize my profession," wrote Satel, who also works at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. "Last year, the Association of American Medical Colleges … informed medical schools that they ‘must employ anti-racist and unconscious bias training and engage in interracial dialogues.’"
She also highlighted the AMA's plan to "push upstream to address all determinants of health and the root causes of inequities, dismantle structural racism and intersecting systems of oppression."
While medical professionals have acknowledged social influences on health, critics of new equity plans argue that they go too far in directing doctors to act as political activists.
"This is no solution," Satel added. "Physicians cannot—and should not—'dismantle racism and intersecting systems of oppression' as part of their clinical mission. To imply that such activity falls within our scope of expertise is to abuse our authority. Doctors can reasonably lobby for policies directly promoting health, such as better coverage for patient care or more services, but we will lose our focus and dilute our efforts to care for patients if we seek to address the perceived root causes of health disparities."
The AMA did not respond to Fox News' request for comment. The AAMC pointed Fox News to a column by its founder of the AAMC Center for Health Justice.
The October post argues that "Words matter — especially when talking about racial and health justice in medicine." Dr. Phillip Alberti, the center's founding director, and others have focused on the influence of purportedly harmful narratives on patients.
Alberti said that words "matter because they have the power to perpetuate or to dismantle structural racism, to empower a person or to marginalize them, to reinforce a harmful traditional narrative or to provide an alternative one."
The debate underscores a broader conflict over whether so-called "woke" ideologies stifle free inquiry, speech and debate.
Dr. Norman Wang, a University of Pittsburgh cardiologist, reportedly faced backlash after criticizing affirmative action. According to RealClearInvestigations, he was demoted and told by the director of the cardiology fellowship program: "It is clear to us that any educational environment in which you partake is inherently unsafe, increasing our learners’ risk for undue bias and harm."
The American Heart Association, which publishes the journal where Wang's article appeared, said the journal "is editorially independent but that’s no excuse. We’ll investigate. We’ll do better."
That incident and others have contributed to accusations that left-leaning ideas have created a "cancel culture" where professionals are punished for merely expressing their views.
Dr. Brittani James, a Chicago physician, told RealClearInvestigations that "[t]hey call it cancel culture, but it’s actually accountability."
Last year, health professionals also caught headlines when they endorsed racially charged protests during the coronavirus pandemic. Challenging systemic racism, the group of more than 1,200 professionals said in a letter it was an important part of public health.
"[A]s public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission," the letter reportedly read.
"We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States. We can show that support by facilitating safest protesting practices without detracting from demonstrators' ability to gather and demand change. This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders."