Disappearing Medical History
Check this out. What you will find is a strange story of what has recently happened at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston. Seems that a number of portraits of professors from long ago, that had hung in a busy lecture hall forever, were taken down and dispersed to locations of far less prominence. Inquiring minds wanted to know why. Here’s the answer. All of the portraits were of old, white men. Yup, that was the demographic profile of physicians at the time. So why were they taken down? It seems that the venerable institution decided that they wanted to be more “inclusive,” and thus the message of these portraits (?) was not the one that they wanted to send.
Let’s think about that for a second. Living in the South, I have witnessed firsthand the fierce debate about the removal of Civil War statues from public parks. I must confess that I understand both sides of that debate, though certainly lean toward their removal. I have also read about statues of historical physicians being removed for cause, and/or having their names stripped from buildings and prestigious awards because of their scurrilous misdeeds. I see little ground for debate as to the appropriateness of taking these actions.
But somehow, this Brigham and Women’s story, that has made it into the Boston Globe and is being hotly discussed by physicians in the social media, seems a little different. While reasonable minds can disagree on this one, and seem to be doing so, the blogging physician opines in this post that we are dealing here with a “slippery slope” of erasing history. As the Globe article rightly reports, the student body, faculty and administration of this hospital, like most, is extremely diverse in 2018. There is no denying that. And it wasn’t always so. There is no denying that either.
Bottom Line. So what better serves the psyches of today’s Brigham and Women’s physicians? Proudly seeing the addition of new and diverse professors’ portraits changing the makeup of the walls in front of their eyes, letting them view with pride the metamorphosis, or removing the historical portraits and pretending that things weren’t much more homogeneous in days gone by?