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Bad medicine for UAMS

by Robert Steinbuch | December 11, 2022 at 1:46 a.m.

Recently I wrote about Arkansas' need to eliminate discrimination based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, and nationality in government contracting, hiring, and admissions. Today I address another type of awful affirmative action.

State law mandates that at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), 70 percent of the first 150 positions--out of 188--in the incoming medical-school class be equally divided among the state's four congressional districts, irrespective of merit. Thus, before ever examining qualifications, UAMS' admissions are restricted based on geography.

Getting the best possible doctors doesn't happen when using ZIP codes to screen applicants. This approach lowers our goal from excellence to mediocrity. Why would Arkansas law artificially restrict admissions by local geography? Politics.

Conservatives must be consistent. It's one of our pre-eminent values. While our legitimate critique of affirmative action tends to focus on race because the effects there are the largest and most damaging, we nonetheless must state our objection to all non-merit preferences.

The geography restriction is every bit a denigration of merit as are race-based quotas. The admissions process is zero sum, all attempts to obfuscate to the contrary notwithstanding.

But the Legislature's removal of the geography preference at UAMS must coincide with the general elimination of affirmative action in this state. Otherwise, leftist administrators will simply replace geography-based quotas with race-based preferences.

This is no mere conjecture. In 2003, UAMS' admissions committee adopted the "diversity as a compelling interest" policy, which "endorses the benefits of student body diversity described by the Supreme Court ... and further recognizes the value of diversity in addressing the need to improve access to health care for the vulnerable populations in Arkansas and to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care treatment and outcomes within the state."

While affirmative action barely survived judicial scrutiny in 2016 and conventional wisdom is that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will rule race preferences unconstitutional, the court's actions alone won't stop the application of this insidious discrimination.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) race hucksters will delay, deny, and deflect at every opportunity, assuredly seeking to disingenuously distinguish their race-based preferences from the soon-to-be prohibited behavior.

As such, the Legislature needs to formally prohibit UAMS' racialized admissions. The merit-burying "diversity as a compelling interest" policy needs to be replaced with a "producing the highest quality doctors" policy. Common sense needs to supplant discrimination and politics.

The pervasive attempts to eschew merit through quotas, particularly in higher education--by educators, no less--is an abomination. This is why the rest of the world laughs at us as they pass us by.

I saw it years ago when a senior UAMS official said he knew of no evidence that medical students admitted with lower metrics became less capable doctors. This was a transparent dodge. As Carl Sagan famously said, "the absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence."

How did the official even measure doctors' competence? In this vein, I recall a study asserting that because data didn't show different rates of sanctions of minority versus non-minority lawyers, race-based admissions in law schools was on solid footing. Administrative penalties no more measure the quality of lawyers than do shoe sizes. The former are levied in response to unethical behavior, and yes, that assessment is different than judging skill. But that's what the DEI purveyors sell to naive observers: false equivalencies.

Moreover, evaluating the capability of doctors doesn't even address the most basic question: whether students admitted with lower metrics complete medical school and become board certified at the same rate as students with better entering scores.

My research demonstrates that minorities admitted to law schools with inferior metrics pursuant to progressive political preferences pass the bar exam at a far lower rate than entrants admitted on merit. Shocker! My bet is that we'd see similar outcomes for medical schools.

As it turns out, most of my doctors are of color. The irony is that to the racialists, many of these physicians are the wrong type of brown, as they're Indian or Pakistani, and according to the left, "we've got plenty of them folks."

The treatment of these non-preferred minorities mirrors the exclusion in college admissions of Jews during the last century and Asians today. Even now, I've seen discrimination against Jewish faculty in higher education, particularly professors like me with the temerity to actually practice their belief in God, because we're the wrong kind of minority for secular leftists in control of higher education.

Having non-observant Jews on the faculty allows bureaucrats to point to another charm on their Pandora bracelets. Not scheduling every school party on Friday night, now that's downright inconvenient.

The saddest part of this political dogma masquerading as legitimate policy is the racist trope hiding in plain sight in UAMS' statement proclaiming "the value of diversity in addressing the need to improve access to health care for the vulnerable populations in Arkansas and to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care treatment and outcomes within the state."

UAMS' statement openly declares that white medical-school graduates are innately less able or less inclined to treat vulnerable populations and minority patients than are minority doctors.

Are white doctors congenitally racist? Do minority doctors have magical insight into the medical problems of like-raced patients? Hogwash!

If recently white-coated doctors of any race aren't treating minorities as often or with the same care as they treat whites, then UAMS--not its graduates--has failed in its primary pedagogical purpose. Forgive my difficulty in accepting the puerile progressive proclamation that while UAMS can teach would-be doctors to save lives, cure cancers, and transplant hearts, the willingness and competence of its graduates to care for the under-served and underprivileged is predetermined by these newly minted physicians' minority status.

UAMS needs to better train these healers--if such a problem exists--rather than opportunistically blame the school's failings on the relative level of whiteness of its students.

This is the fatal conceit of race- hustling orthodoxy: We're all equal, until it comes to set-asides. Then, Black doctors are intrinsically better at treating Black patients, gay actors must play gay characters, and no minority can enter any profession unless taught by another member of his group.

Racists, the lot of them.

I'm glad when a doctor sees me on time. Could you imagine running any other business like that: The movie begins at three-ish; your daughter's pre-school lets out mid-afternoon?

UAMS should teach a class on reading a watch. That would be a real service to society. But I'm sure the response to this tangential gripe will be that my "white privilege" has elevated this insignificant concern above the "real issue" in medical science: the skin color of my doctor.

The unholy competition between geography and race preferences at UAMS demonstrates the problem with all non-merit admissions. Once substantive quality is denigrated, the alternatives are just various forms of what economists call "rent seeking," that is, some individual or group just trying to get a bigger piece of the pie.

And everyone knows that more pie is not a good prescription for better health.

This is your right to know.

Robert Steinbuch, professor of law at the Bowen Law School, is a Fulbright Scholar and author of the treatise "The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act." His views do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.

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