Friday, April 11, 2008

Is there a diverse doctor in the house?

Better yet, board certified in diversity.

Stanford University is worried that the doctors its medical school turns out aren't Latino enough. (Tip of the hat: Discriminations).

It's bad enough that blacks make up 12 percent of the country's population, but there have only been 1.5 black presidential candidates, including Jesse Jackson, or 2.5 if you count Bill Clinton. But there's worse news, the Stanford Daily tells us:

Latino Americans only make up five percent of California’s doctors, according to a recent study at UC-San Francisco, though they constitute one-third of the state’s population.

Fernando Mendoza, Associate Dean for Minority Advising and Programs at the Stanford School of Medicine, said the lack of diversity within the medical profession can actually reduce the effectiveness of physicians.

He assures us that non-Latino doctors are biased against Latino patients — unconsciously, you dig? They see that -ez suffix in the patient's family name and the Hippocatic Oath goes plop into the bin, not that the physician notices.

Mendoza, who has advanced degrees in managementspeak and diversityspeak (implement, outreach, targeted, under-representation), identifies the cause of the lack of Latino medical students:
“Some reasons for this are that the socioeconomic class of Latinos gives them less ability to go on to colleges,” he said. “Another aspect of it is that they’re perhaps not encouraged to go into those careers. And some of it also has to do with the unconscious cultural biases about who should be and who shouldn’t be physicians.”
It's probably my unconscious cultural bias ("Doctor! My bias is turning blue and its eyeballs are rolling up!") speaking, but I can't help thinking we are getting into the near-suburbs of — shhh — quotas here.

"The problem is that our measures by numbers don’t predict the ability of people to think critically and work hard, or measure the passion they have to succeed," Mendoza says. Well, there is no way to perfectly measure aptitude for a profession, but generally, standardized tests (including IQ tests) do a pretty fair job of sorting out those who can think critically and those who can't.

As a basic rule of thumb, if I must ever undergo surgery again, I'm inclined to put my money on the nice Jewish boy with the 130 IQ, a father and uncle who were doctors, and who aced his medical school admission exam, over the fellow who got top grades in Passion to Succeed.

While critics of this approach to admissions worry that the quality of students admitted to the medical school will be reduced in the name of diversity, Mendoza said that this does not necessarily have to be the case.

“I came as a medical student with affirmative action,” he said. “There were four of us then. Now, I’m a professor here at Stanford, one colleague is head of a children’s hospital in Mexico City and another is quadruple boarded.”

Righto. I don't know about the doctors, but I'm sure his being a Stanford professor has absolutely nothing to do with affirmative action.


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