the torah portion emor pronounces “one law shall be exacted for you, convert and resident alike.” leviticus 24:22. this expression alone- if it was the torah’s only statement- would be sufficient to appreciate the scripture’s long standing impact upon the world. the united states constitution’s 14th amendment echoes the divine words when its provides “nor shall any state …deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
no torah portion, however, would be any good without stoking some controversy. as such, within emor, the priestly class, the kohanim aka sons of aaron, have special laws- mostly involving holiness and purity- that imposed upon them. leviticus 22.
in modern times, the healing arts, with the ability to save, prolong and alter life, has elevated the practitioners to almost a priestly-like status. with medicine’s recognition of infection, sterilization and cleanliness has become part and parcel for practicing medicine. as such, doctors, with their masks, surgical gloves and frequent hand washing, are faced with special rules unlike the public.
with all these thoughts in mind, a recent medical school education article published in the new england journal of medicine stoked controversy. it suggested that, in order address matters of anti-racism, that there should be racial afiinity group caucusing. “racial affinity group caucusing engages participants in critical introspection through the lens of their own racialized experience and enhances learning by building community and encouraging praxis, the integration of theory, self-reflection, and action. such caucusing, which some indigenous scholars believe derives from an algonquin term meaning a group gathering for wise counsel, involves a thoughtful and purposeful approach to dialogue.” this statement has been interpreted to implying the imposition of some form of segregated medical school education.
thus, medical school students, some of the brightest and most capable individuals in our society, impliedly must be sheltered in order to speak openly. while in the portion emor, while there were different rules of the priestly class, there were no dispensation between those who fell within the category. likewise, with the greater notion of law in emor, equal treatment under the law applied across the board. the notion of special treatment suggested is therefore problematic under this analysis.
taking the article’s suggestion to the practical realities, the concept would appear to disrupt the development of doctors. physicians must be capable of addressing the basic needs to all patients in terms of assessment. ethnicity, nationality, race, sex, etc. are all important considerations. all doctors should be prepared to have open discussions with their patients in order to illicit important and necessary information to best treat their clients. likewise, doctors should be prepared to confront other doctors to determine which physician has the proper approach with respect to a disputed course of patient treatment.
for example, a loved one recently had surgery and an african american doctor was the anesthesiologist. he did an excellent job explaining everything. he further did a great job fielding difficult questions. finally, he did good work as the surgery was successful. while most patients may not have understood some of what he was saying because it was technical, i was able to grasp it and ask detailed questions which he answered on point.
doctors need to be prepared for the worst when being questioned by patients. with the advent of the internet, physicians, for years, have been inundated with patients who offer “googled” solutions or diagnosis to the medical concerns. with the spread of artificial intelligence, physicians will now face an onslaught of chatgpt articles presented to them by their patients. the patients doing so will be from all walks of life. as such, learning about medicine and addressing the needs of all types of patients requires a well roundedness that can only be achieved by expanding one’s horizons.
many years ago, someone we know, due to the fact that he was wait listed at ucla medical school, chose to enroll abroad at an israeli medical school. at the time, there was an influx of ethiopian immigrants who were brought to the country. he was assigned to provide treatment to them as part of his schooling. after the first year of medical school, he was contacted by ucla and told that he could enroll as a spot was available for him. he turned it down. in israel, with the new immigrants, he was gaining invaluable experience in treating medical conditions not seen in the united states. in the end, he returned to the united states and started a successful medical practice.
in the end, expanding one’s knowledge is always better than confining it. the free flow of ideas is important. we all should have the courage to ask questions or express our viewpoints. this courage, most times, only comes with practice.
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