ACR urges members to take a course on systemic racism and white privilege, sparking controversy over its emphasis on critical race theory in healthcare.
Health Equity: Life in Black and White
In a move aimed at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the medical community, a professional medical society representing thousands of doctors and scientists in the radiology specialty, the American College of Radiology (ACR), has strongly encouraged its members to participate in a course on systemic racism and white privilege.
Screenshots obtained by the American Accountability Foundation reveal the course’s content and objectives.
Titled “Health Equity: Life in Black and White,” the course targets doctors and medical students associated with the ACR, prompting them to delve into critical concepts such as microaggressions, tone policing, racial profiling, privilege, anti-racism, intersectionality, and unconscious or implicit bias.
Participants are encouraged to engage in group settings, where they will watch instructive videos, including the Ted Talk “Color Blind or Color Brave” and “5 Tips for Being an Ally.”
Comparing the Privileged to Ken and Barbie
Suggested reading materials encompass articles like “We Need Co-Conspirators, Not Allies” and “The Role of White Co-Conspirators in Dismantling Systemic Racism.”
Central to the course is a flow chart titled “Identity and Privilege,” categorizing identity groups according to their historical access to benefits and recognition.
The chart ranks individuals with the most privilege as men and boys, white people, those aged 35-60, Christians, heterosexual and cis-gender individuals, those without disabilities, and people with possessions, humorously comparing them to looking like “Ken or Barbie.”
Conversely, the group with the least privilege includes women and girls, black people and people of color, young individuals and elders, LGBT individuals, the working class, and people with disabilities.
Challenging Unconscious Biases in Healthcare
The course also acknowledges that people from various religious backgrounds face oppression, including Muslims, Jews, atheists, and others.
Another critical module in the course focuses on recognizing unconscious biases in the administration of healthcare.
Participants are presented with scenarios to test their awareness, prompting them to consider their reactions and judgments in various medical situations.
One such scenario involves Sara Ali, a devout Muslim, experiencing difficulties getting pregnant, and the participants are asked which imaging test they would order as part of her infertility workup.
In a System of Power
The course addresses the issue of the health-care system being a “system of power,” pointing out disparities in its treatment based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities.
Participants are urged to contemplate how to ensure equal screening rates for breast cancer among women of color compared to white and Asian women and how to reduce the rate of delayed diagnosis and workup in women of color.
While the ACR has taken steps to promote health equity, not everyone is in favor of this approach.
Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, Chairman of Do No Harm, criticizes the course as a collection of clichés derived from critical race theory, asserting that it assumes white people, particularly white males, oppress others in society without empirical evidence to support such claims.
Combating Health Disparities Based on Race
He advocates for a focus on rigorous medical training and manners, rather than social theories.
The ACR, in response, stated that it is not conducting the course, highlighting that it is just one of many organizations that waded into social-justice programming and the politicization of medicine following the unrest triggered by the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
During the ACR’s annual meeting in 2021, the organization’s outgoing president announced the establishment of the Radiology Health Equity Coalition, aiming to combat health disparities based on race.
The ACR pledged its commitment to advancing health equity through collaboration with coalition members, research, artificial intelligence development, and radiology trainee and medical student recruitment efforts.
Has Sparked a Contentious Debate
While promoting health equity and combating racism are noble goals, the course has sparked a contentious debate, raising questions about the role of critical race theory in the medical profession and its potential impact on healthcare decision-making.
As the medical community grapples with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, striking a balance between addressing disparities and preserving a merit-based approach remains a challenging yet crucial task.
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