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Republicans in Congress push to ban DEI in medical schools | Bills and Laws

News
Article

Congressman Greg Murphy has introduced a bill that would cut off federal funds for medical schools with offices aimed at improving diversity. Medical colleges say improving diversity leads to better care.

The skinny

House Republicans are backing a bill aimed at wiping out efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at medical schools. Medical colleges argue that improving diversity in enrollment improves healthcare.

Image: U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., is sponsoring a bill that would cut federal funds to medical schools with offices promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

Sponsors

U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy, a Republican from North Carolina, is the prime sponsor of the bill. U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio Republican, is the co-sponsor.

Summary

This week, Murphy introduced the Embracing anti-Discrimination, Unbiased Curricula, and Advancing Truth in Education (EDUCATE) Act. His office says the goal is to “ban DEI” in medicine.

Murphy’s office said the bill is intended to cut off federal funding to medical schools that have diversity, equity and inclusion offices. If enacted, the measure would also cut off funding to schools that discriminate based on race or ethnicity, his office said in a news release.

In addition, the bill would require accreditation agencies to monitor medical schools to ensure that they aren’t employing efforts to boost diversity. And funds would also be withheld from medical schools that “force students or faculty” to adopt certain beliefs.

Analysis

Murphy is a medical doctor and former professor of surgery and chair of the urology division at East Carolina University. The lawmaker touts the bill as an effort to prevent discrimination in medical schools. Murphy and Stanley Goldfarb, a former associate dean at the University of Pennsylvania medical school, co-wrote an opinion piece on the measure published by The Wall Street Journal.

“American medical schools are the best in the world and no place for discrimination," Murphy said in a statement. "The EDUCATE Act compels medical schools and accrediting agencies to uphold colorblind admissions processes and prohibits the coercion of students who hold certain political opinions. Diversity strengthens medicine, but not if it’s achieved through exclusionary practices.”

Medical schools have been adamant that improving diversity in enrollment is vital to producing better physicians and raising the quality of healthcare in America.

This week, the Association of American Medical Colleges issued a statement backing DEI efforts.

“The presence of diversity, equity, and inclusion in medical school curricula is intended to train the next generation of physicians to respond most appropriately to the rapidly diversifying populations that they will serve,” the AAMC said. “Doing so increases the likelihood for better health care and healthy lives for all patients, including individuals who have been historically marginalized by the health care system.”

In the wake of efforts to undermine diversity programs in higher education, the AAMC has called DEI a strategic priority and said, “We cannot afford to lose the progress we have made with our DEI initiatives nor the momentum to make further changes needed to achieve our vision of creating a healthier future for everyone.”

The National Medical Association, which represents Black physicians and healthcare professionals, said in a statement this week that efforts to weaken DEI programs play “a pivotal role in hindering the advancement of diverse students.” Nationwide, Black doctors make up 5.7% of the physician workforce, according to AAMC data.

“Recognizing the importance of diversity in medical schools is necessary for addressing health care disparities and improving patient outcomes,” the NMA stated. The group notes that a more diverse medical school enrollment helps prospective doctors to relate to a wider mix of patients, and points to research that shows a higher number of Black doctors leads to better outcomes for Black patients.

Barbara Spivak, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said her group is fully committed to DEI programs and pointed to the need for more diversity in medical schools and the physician workforce.

“DEI programs in medical schools help to close these inequitable gaps and are vital components in creating environments where students can thrive and become better practicing physicians, leading to better patient care and improved health outcomes,” Spivak said in a statement.

Some physicians spoke out against the bill on social media.

Oni Blackstone, founder and executive director of Health Justice, wrote about the bill in a post on X (formerly Twitter): “Sickening to see the language of anti-discrimination being used against programs and practices meant to break down systemic barriers to make the field of medicine more inclusive.”

The increased focus on DEI programs in medical schools comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it’s unconstitutional for colleges and universities to consider race as a factor in admissions.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation this week barring the use of state funds for DEI programs at higher education institutions. The law is slated to go into effect Oct. 1. Texas and Florida have approved laws barring DEI programs at colleges and universities, and GOP lawmakers have pushed similar measures in other states.

Outlook

Republicans control the House of Representatives, and more than 30 GOP lawmakers have backed the bill, so the measure could conceivably pass the House. It would need virtually unanimous GOP support in the closely divided chamber. With Democrats controlling the Senate, the bill would appear to have little chance of approval in that chamber.

President Biden has issued an executive order supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in the federal workforce, so it’s a good bet he’d veto the bill in the unlikely event the Senate sent it to his desk.

Nonetheless, Republican lawmakers may well campaign on the legislation, and similar efforts to abolish DEI initiatives at the state level, during the heated 2024 election season.


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