Last month Katie Herzog published a piece in which doctors warned that woke ideology was taking over the field of medicine. “Wokeness feels like an existential threat,” one doctor told Herzog.
Today, Herzog has a follow-up piece from the perspective of a medical student. The student’s real identity isn’t shared in the piece because she fears repercussions. Instead Herzog refers to her as simply as Lauren. The piece opens with Lauren recalling a professor who apologized profusely during a lecture for using the phrase “pregnant women.”
It wasn’t the first time Lauren had heard an instructor apologize for using language that, to most Americans, would seem utterly inoffensive. Words like “male” and “female.”
Why would medical school professors apologize for referring to a patient’s biological sex? Because, Lauren explains, in the context of her medical school “acknowledging biological sex can be considered transphobic.”
When sex is acknowledged by her instructors, it’s sometimes portrayed as a social construct, not a biological reality, she says. In a lecture on transgender health, an instructor declared: “Biological sex, sexual orientation, and gender are all constructs. These are all constructs that we have created.”
In other words, some of the country’s top medical students are being taught that humans are not, like other mammals, a species comprising two sexes. The notion of sex, they are learning, is just a man-made creation.
According to Lauren, the reason so many professors are being careful with any language that implies the existence of biological sex is because they are afraid of their students.
And for good reason. Her medical school hosts an online forum in which students correct their instructors for using terms like “male” and “female” or “breastfeed” instead of “chestfeed.” Students can lodge their complaints in real time during lectures. After one class, Lauren says, she heard that a professor was so upset by students calling her out for using “male” and “female” that she started crying.
Then there are the petitions. At the beginning of the year, students circulated a number of petitions designed to, as Lauren puts it, “name and shame” instructors for “wrongspeak.”
Professors who are aware that they can, in essence, be canceled in real time for using insufficiently woke language, quickly become very careful about what they say and what appears on their slides. As Lauren describes it, “at first, compliance is demanded from outside, and eventually the instructors become trained to police their own language proactively.”
None of this might matter in some fields but in medicine there are distinct differences in how some issues impact men and women, differences that doctors are expected to know about when making a diagnosis. But Lauren says those differences aren’t being taught at her med school.
“Take abdominal aortic aneurysms,” Lauren says. “These are four times as likely to occur in males than females, but this very significant difference wasn’t emphasized. I had to look it up, and I don’t have the time to look up the sex predominance for the hundreds of diseases I’m expected to know. I’m not even sure what I’m not being taught, and unless my classmates are as skeptical as I am, they probably aren’t aware either.”
This is really just the introductory part of a longer story which also looks at the way woke ideology is impacting research, by punishing and attempting to shun any researcher whose conclusions are considered out of bounds. The result is a kind of one-sided debate where anyone with a different opinion quickly learns there can be serious social and professional consequences for speaking up.