14 Nov 2019

Time to Re-Write History at Yale Med School

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The current issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine features a chin-stroking article identifying a PROBLEM and wondering whether or not SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

The problem? 55 portraits hanging in Yale Medical School’s Sterling Hall of Medicine, honoring distinguished former faculty feature the images of 52 white men and three white women.

Walls lined with portraits of past Yale medical luminaries—almost all of them white men—lead some medical students to feel that they themselves don’t belong at the school, a recent study found.

Two students interviewed 15 of their peers, asking them open-ended questions about their thoughts on the paintings in the Sterling Hall of Medicine. The portraits feature 52 white men and 3 white women.

Some students said the portraits displayed values of whiteness, elitism, maleness, and power. Some felt “judged and unwelcome”; one said, “If these portraits could speak, they would not be so excited about me . . . being a student here.” Some reported joking about the portraits or avoiding Sterling altogether.

“For many interviewed students, the portraiture signified that they did not fit the model of the ideal Yale physician,” wrote coauthors Nientara Anderson ’06, ’20MD, and Elizabeth Fitzsousa ’21MD. (The study is online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.) To many women students and students of color, the portraits represent a constant force of disapproval, says Anderson. Medical students of color, she adds, often already face challenges to their right to care for patients in the hospital. Other researchers have found that students who feel they’re on the margins may experience greater stress, potentially eroding their ability to succeed.

What should become of the portraits? It’s hard to know, but the conversation has begun, Anderson says. “In recent years, this is the first time this question is being raised with such force,” she adds. “There’s no road map.”


Actually, Springer wants $39.95 for you to download and read the article. Nor is it available through a major research library like Yale University’s main library journal subscription service (accessible to alumni). You can only access that particular journal through Medical School libraries.

How worthwhile it would be to take the trouble to read the entire article is rather questionable. Why would anyone take seriously a “study” which consisted of soliciting the personal opinions of a mere 15 people?

Nonetheless, all three authors now sit on the Yale School of Medicine Committee on Art in Public Spaces, “work[ing] to ensure that artwork hung in public areas of the medical school reflects the mission, history, and diversity of the Yale medical community.” Anna Reisman M.D., who co-chairs the committee, says “this study is an important step in effecting institutional change.” And the Yale Alumni Magazine has joined in promoting it as “the beginning of a conversation” about just what’s going to happen to all those portraits of Dead, White Men.

I think we all know just how this kind of “conversation” always ends.

2 Feedbacks on "Time to Re-Write History at Yale Med School"

Dan Kurt

Taking down the pictures is bad enough but for the past half century at Ivy League Medical schools and other top tier Med Schools there has been a staggering reduction in the number of white males admitted to their programs. Women & “minorities” have squeezed out of the pipeline the white males as much as that was possible. My Sister (now a retired professor) for 25 years was on a Med School admission committee and at the time reveled in the reverse discrimination knowingly effected by her ilk. She is not now sure what good she and legions of other academics accomplished in their liberal zealotry to extirpate white males from medicine.
Dan Kurt


Worse, those current students don’t recongnise that the portraits were of “physicians” who showed their talents at patient care, teaching, leadership, or in discovery. For “physicians”, race only metters in that it shuffles the statistics on likely disorders a bit. Tay-Sachs is rare in those of African descent but sickle cell anemia is more common. Patient education level is more important so that a physician can explain or instruct patients about any conditions.

If more minority or female students make it to med school, that is life. If second or third rate students are recruited because of race, sex or ethnicity, then patients will die.

A “headache” can be nothing or a sign of a vascular problem or cancer. A neighbor had pain between his shoulder blades. The doc caught pleural effusion and kidney failure. Chronic Diabetes can be sneaky.

“Doctoring” ain’t for the dim. Sounds like Yale has some recruiting and/or teaching problems.


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