XU: The Fatal Flaws In Studies Arguing For DEI In Medicine


Kenny Xu Contributor
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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the narrative that America is inherently exclusionary towards minorities is now omnipresent in large company boardrooms, universities, and government offices.  In the field of scientific medicine, however, Americans should confidently assert that DEI has penetrated too far.

An April 27th journal article in the New England Journal of Medicine, an old and prestigious medical journal that is credited with presenting early COVID-19 evidence in Wuhan, claims that racial affinity groups, perhaps better explained as racially segregated learning pods, will address “health disparities” and the racial gaps in medical outcomes.

The article exploits medical institutions’ hankering for DEI to effectively call for “a space without white people” and peddle antiracist jargon. Why articles that call for segregation are published in influential scientific publications is a question that begs to be answered.

A clue reveals itself in the article’s first sentence: “As academic medicine begins to recognize and examine racism as the root cause of racially disparate health outcomes…”

Notice the unchallengeable given: racism is the root cause of racially disparate health outcomes.  The DEI narrative gains power from the idea that eliminating racism is the solution to the racial gaps in society.  

If only it were that simple.  Yes, black Americans are likelier to develop complications during pregnancy, maintain lower life expectancies, and become obese.  However, pinning these disparities on racism on the part of the doctors or the “system” is irresponsible. 

Take one sobering fact about our medical outcomes: the disparity in infant mortality rate in the United States.  “Black newborns face starkly worse clinical outcomes than White newborns in the United States,” reads one hot study about disparities in medical outcomes in the United States.  “Black newborns are more than twice as likely to die in their first year as White newborns [1,090 vs. 490 deaths per 100,000 births, respectively].”

These differences in birth mortality rates may look like a serious racial problem, perhaps even implicative of hospitals’ mistreatment of black mothers.  Based on these headlines, DEI programs seem necessary and vital to making a fairer and more equitable society.

But the difference in mortality rate can be fully explained by factors unrelated to the latent racism of a doctor or the racist nature of the hospital.  For example, a 2021 study directly addressing the racial disparities in infant mortality rate found that one factor fully explained the difference between black and white women – and it wasn’t race, income, or level of education.  It was the gestational length, with preterm pregnancies correlating with significantly higher mortality rates.  

Gestational length, of course, is significantly influenced by both genetics and an accumulation of life stressors on the mother of the baby and on her partner (or lack thereof).  Since pregnant black women are significantly more likely to be grappling with adverse social, economic, and healthcare challenges, their pregnancies are consequently more likely to be rockier, even given a neutral hospital situation.  

A DEI advocate could argue that these life stressors are – yes – also a product of historical and current racism.  But this argument does nothing to help this poor pregnant woman improve her condition nor does it help a doctor better treat his patient.  It is also outside the scope of the medical field, which should be concentrated on scientific procedure, not political speculation.

DEI, simply put, speculates frequently on such topics.  The NEJM authors, for example, endorse the subject of “unconscious bias,” which is the idea that doctors are latently racist against Black individuals even if they don’t know it.  They maintain that white medical students need to “reevaluate their own internalized racism.”

Not only is the concept of “unconscious bias” unproven, but training to address unconscious bias often produces the opposite result, leading to greater interracial resentment.  It also impugns doctors’ intentions despite their professional commitment to focus on the health problems of their patients.  

Such ideas, especially when published in prestigious medical journals, continue to influence top policymakers and healthcare CEOs.  “It is … important to address ideas in medical education that have their roots in unconscious bias,” reads a talking point primer delivered to University of North Carolina Health CEO Wesley Burks.  

Where do medical leaders like Burks get their talking points?  Of course, from sources that he believes are medically legitimate: the NEJM, for example.  When the NEJM publishes irresponsible claims unfounded in scientific thinking, healthcare administrators take these claims and turn them into irresponsible policies.  The offices of DEI, unfortunately, produce many such claims.

The NEJM “want[s] to encourage rigorous long-term thinking,” says a video from its website.  If they truly seek this, they should remove DEI and its unfiltered speculations from its pages before more damage is done.

Kenny Xu is the President of Color Us United and the author of An Inconvenient Minority and School of Woke.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.