Named after the mountain where God gave the law to Moses, the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine is one of the most prestigious medical schools in the United States. In recent years, however, Mount Sinai has not been the site of divine revelation, but of the golden calf of woke revolution. In fact, the school is considered an exemplar for infusing “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) into healthcare by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), but this is to the detriment of the medical field.
When the AAMC published its DEI competencies last year, it vaunted Mount Sinai’s Center for Anti-racism in Practice (CAP) and the “curriculum clinic” CAP developed “to build capacity for the ongoing practice of anti-racist pedagogy … within all courses and clerkships.” Exploring Mount Sinai’s AAMC-approved CAP led me to its “Chats for Change” initiative, a series of webinars used to facilitate dialogue on various antiracism-related topics.
In the description for one recent webinar, Mount Sinai stated:
When we believe progress is more, we value those who have “progressed” over those who “have not” — where progress is measured in degrees, grades, money, power, status, material belongings. Join us as we take a deep dive into how progress is more shows up in our work and learning environment and what we can do to counter this white supremacy culture characteristic.
The facilitators of this event appeared to suggest that a minority medical student’s lack of achievement is actually a good thing, for the student, the school, and society.
Curious about what these “Chats for Change” events entailed, I attended my first webinar on the topic of capitalism—a topic of little relevance to medical education—in December 2022. One of CAP’s hosts, Jay Johnson (she / they), began the event by refuting the notion of “rags to riches.” “Those types of stories perpetuate the narrative that you get what you work for in a capitalist society because there is so much freedom,” Johnson said, “but because we [Americans] are faced with other predictive factors, such as oppression … racism, homophobia … There is not really a true meritocracy in the United States, because of the nature of oppressive systems.”
Capitalism is really a reinforcing and foundational structure of racism. A lot of times when we talk about being anti-racist and dismantling systems that perpetuate racism, capitalism is often at the [top] of the list … Capitalism also defines and creates beauty standards, which we know that white beauty standards hold as paramount in our country and so [capitalism] reinforces the value of whiteness.
In the general discussion, when attendees were welcome to speak, Johnson cited Hawaii, and how tourists were contributing to its “gentrification,” to further her argument. To my amazement, another attendee began to speak: “So would you have people not spend their money going to certain countries as tourists?” Johnson’s answer: yes. “A huge chunk of [Hawaii’s] income is based on tourism,” the man continued. “If you removed that tourism, Hawaii would be in a very serious economic situation.”
A brief debate ensued between the attendee and Johnson about the effects of “colonialism” and what should be done about them. That debate grew heated, not because either participant cared for the tourism industry in Hawaii, but because of the implications of “post-colonialism” in medicine. It appeared that Johnson, and Mount Sinai, advocated for denying native Hawaiians the miracles of Western medicine under the guise of “anti-racism” and “decolonization.”
A month later, CAP held another “Chats for Change” webinar, on “The Worship of the Written Word”—an aspect of “white supremacy culture.” In the description of the event, facilitators asked attendees: “Why is anything that is documented or published valued more highly than other forms of knowledge and communication?… Are clinical trials more valuable than patients’ lived experiences?”
I attended this event as well, and it began, ironically, when Dr. David Muller, the dean of medical education, recommended a book he was reading to the audience. “I am one of those people who, in a sense, worships the written word,” Dean Muller explained, as if to announce his advocacy of white supremacy rather than his opposition to it. That advocacy, however, appeared present in more ways than one.
Once the conversation was opened to the audience, I asked Dean Muller why—if Mount Sinai was really trying to downplay tribalism, as I was told—they were centering superficial identities, such as “white” or “black,” as opposed to superordinate unifying identities such as “human,” or even “healthcare provider.” I was not given an answer.
“One of the things that I’ve heard during this discussion,” I told Dean Muller, “is this notion of “power,” that everything is a power dynamic … There’s something very wrong about this idea, because there is no political philosophy that is more implicitly psychopathic than to see the world through a lens of power. That’s like a Hobbesian nightmare, where everything is a tyranny and everyone is a tyrant, and that’s not good for medicine, it’s not good for society, and it’s not good for Mount Sinai for sure.”
“It seems to me,” I pointed out to Dean Muller, “that a clinical trial is actually a collection of lived experiences … the side effects people report, how they dealt with surgeries, and whatever else … then we put it through empirical analysis … and we come to conclusions that can shape policy to help the most people.” I explained to Dean Muller that, through this event, Mount Sinai seemed to be implying that it would deny minority communities clinical trials in favor of their individual “lived experiences,” failing to provide them with the best practices of medicine.
Other than being thanked for my comment, Dean Muller gave no response to the charge that, under his leadership, Mount Sinai was perpetuating racism under the deceptive guise of “anti-racism.”
As my colleague John Sailer reported in 2021, some of Mount Sinai’s senior leaders wrote in Academic Medicine—the journal of the AAMC, which lauds CAP’s “antiracist” programs such as these “Chats for Change”—that “[w]e have to go out there and seek the truth, part of which is accepting that, if we are White, we are a big part of the problem.” In that same letter, the authors demanded that we “Say racist and antiracist. Say White privilege. Say White supremacist culture. Use this language out loud and in public and endeavor to understand what it means.”
Among the authors of that letter was Dean Muller, and while he has certainly used this language out loud and in public, one must wonder if he has even begun to understand what it means, and the ideological virus that he and so many others are helping to incubate in medical education.