A Lawmaker Proposed A Bill That Would Ban DEI In Medical Schools. Doctors Say It Could Roll Back Progress Toward Improving Black Maternal Health

Bill That Would Ban DEI

Dr. Versha Pleasant, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School, has dedicated her career to addressing racial health disparities affecting Black mothers. She developed a curriculum that delves into the history of racism in obstetrics and gynecology in the United States, including the unethical practices of doctors like James Marion Sims, who performed experimental surgeries on enslaved Black women without anesthesia, perpetuating the false notion that Black women have a higher tolerance for pain than white women.

Despite not teaching this material recently, Dr. Pleasant worries that her efforts to reintroduce it could face challenges if the “Embracing anti-Discrimination, Unbiased Curricula, and Advancing Truth in Education (EDUCATE) Act” becomes law. Proposed by North Carolina Republican Rep. Greg Murphy, this bill seeks to prohibit federally-funded medical schools from implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies, claiming they promote divisive ideologies and discriminatory practices.

Supporters of the EDUCATE Act argue that medical schools should maintain colorblind admissions processes and avoid politicizing medical education. However, critics, including Dr. Pleasant, believe that DEI programs are essential for addressing racial disparities in healthcare. They argue that banning DEI efforts could hinder progress in combating issues like the Black maternal health crisis, where Black women face significantly higher mortality rates during pregnancy compared to white women.

Dr. Mary Fleming from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health emphasizes the importance of discussing the origins of racial health disparities in medical education. She fears that the EDUCATE Act would hinder these discussions and prevent the development of interventions to address these disparities effectively.

Dr. Italo Brown, a clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, highlights the role of DEI offices in creating inclusive environments for students from diverse backgrounds. These offices also contribute to curriculum development that reflects the experiences of marginalized groups and addresses implicit biases in healthcare.

Furthermore, Dr. Rachel Blake, an Ob-Gyn and board member for the Chamber of Mothers, stresses the importance of diversity in the medical workforce for providing culturally-sensitive care and improving patient outcomes, particularly for Black and Indigenous mothers.

In conclusion, opponents of the EDUCATE Act argue that removing DEI efforts from medical education would hinder efforts to address racial disparities in healthcare and limit the preparedness of future healthcare professionals to confront racism and bias in medicine.