Healthcare 360: Navigating the Supreme Court’s Repeal of Affirmative Action

Podcast: Building A Physician Workforce for Equitable Care 

On this week’s episode of Healthcare 360, Dr. Rob Fields sits down with Stephen Fitzpatrick, Senior Director of Strategic Business Solutions at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), to discuss the Supreme Court’s recent decision to repeal affirmative action and what that means for those in healthcare.

The Myth of Race Neutrality

Fitzpatrick, whose role entails working across service programs to think strategically about where the AAMC should be within the next 5-10 years, is quick to point out the recent repeal of affirmative action is harmful not only to medical students but to current healthcare providers and their patients as well.

Using an analogy, he explains, “I think the Supreme Court, by thinking about what they’re considering to be race neutrality, it’s the equivalent of looking right into the center of a waterfall and saying that the water in that spot should be able to move in any direction that it wants, regardless of gravity, regardless of the entire system of that waterfall dragging that downward.”

He continues, “And so it’s really a myth. It’s not a real thing. There are some people out there who are calling ‘race neutral’ the new ‘separate but equal.’ Because it’s such a mythology, because it’s so impossible, that when you remove the consideration of racial categories, you’re not removing race from consideration.”

He went to medical school at the end of his service, kickstarting a long career in internal medicine and health administration.

New Obstacles Mean New Efforts Aimed at Equity

Noting that the repeal is still very recent, Fitzpatrick emphasizes the importance of providing messaging that’s both calm and realistic about what the future holds. He also emphasizes that the heart of the issue is not a political one – it’s about providing adequate care to everyone who needs it.

“We are still – everyone – trying to figure out what it means on how to carve out the space and what’s been allowed and what’s been disallowed and how individual medical school processes fit into that,” says Fitzpatrick.

According to Fitzpatrick, the AAMC is ready to rise to the challenge. “I think what I’m most excited about is that we get better and better at broadening the set of competencies we understand are necessary to being a good physician,” he remarks, “And that we get better and better at assessing them and tying them to outcomes, so that we can know that whatever assessments we’re using are actually predicting the things we want to see in the future.”

Every other week, we’ll chat with a leading expert in healthcare to learn about the many challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Listen to the full conversation with Stephen Fitzpatrick here, and check in regularly for new episodes of Healthcare 360.

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