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AMWA Supports Inclusion of Social Issues in Medical Education

The American Medical Women’s Association supports the American College of Physicians’ position on inclusion of social issues in medical education. In early October, ACP published a response to Dr. Stanley Goldfarb’s commentary in the September 12, 2019 issue of The Wall Street Journal that stated the teaching of gun violence, climate change, and cultural diversity was a waste of time and that medical students should not worry about social issues but spend their time on the study of science.

Dr. Goldfarb also had the stance that a “focus on eliminating health disparities…is coming at the expense of rigorous training in medical science.” However, the teaching of social issues and disease symptomology are not incompatible. In fact, learning how to obtain and assess patients’ social history is vital to treatment of disease. A physician needs to know the social supports a patient has and what kinds of stress might have an impact on recovery. Fear of gun violence, not only the most publicized mass shootings but also harm to individuals in cases of domestic violence or suicide, the latter a predominate gun fatality, has psychological effects that can lead to physical illness. This is a feature of the disease processes that Dr. Goldfarb stated as compromised by the teaching of social justice issues.

Unfortunately, the Dickey Amendment on Federal Funding for Research on Gun Violence has prevented the National Institutes of Health from collecting accurate data on gun violence for over twenty years. This does represent a flaw in the teaching of public health science, which is necessarily an aspect of medical education.

Further, Dr. Goldfarb’s commentary does not take into account the practices that a medical student will eventually pursue. He mentions “oncologists, cardiologists, surgeons and medical specialists” but neglects the role of general physicians in underserved communities, where understanding of health disparities and how they come about is vital.

The American Medical Women’s Association is in full support of the inclusion of social justice issues in medical school curricula.


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