I was disappointed to see several of my colleagues, under the pen name “Concerned Medical Students at the University of Michigan Medical School,” criticize the invitation of Dr. Tom Price, a Republican member of the House of Representatives and alum of the University of Michigan Medical School, in an opinion piece published on Sept. 24, before Price was scheduled to speak. Price spoke at the Medical School as part of the “Conversations with Leadership” series, where medical students are able to learn from notable Medical School alumni who have become leaders in their fields. Because he is a congressman, chairman of the House Budget Committee and an alum, Price certainly qualifies. But my colleagues apparently disagree, not because of any lack in leadership credentials, but because they disagree with his political views.

In unintended irony, the authors largely criticize Price for “(maintaining) partisan lines,” although these lines are, by definition, maintained by both political parties. They then criticize Price’s votes on various issues (unfairly paraphrased by the authors), which were often in line with the overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives. My colleagues state they were “not (rebuking) Price’s invitation to speak to our medical school,” but they question whether individuals like Price can be promoted as a “model of leadership” given his conservative voting record, thereby tacitly implying that neither Price nor any other conservative should ever be invited as a speaker. Furthermore, and perhaps more dangerously, the authors imply that conservative medical students are not qualified to serve as future physician-leaders, because conservatism is allegedly at odds with medical ethics.  

My colleagues insinuate that Price encourages violence against women because he voted against the deeply flawed Violence Against Women Act, that he supports gun violence because of his support for the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, and that he seeks to deprive the poor of irreplaceable medical services by voting to transfer the public funding of Planned Parenthood to other community health centers that provide vital services to poor women.

Many conservatives opposed the Violence Against Women Act because they believed the bill would have the unintended consequence of increasing violence against women. A 2007 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in states that implemented mandatory arrest laws, where police are required to arrest someone if they receive a domestic violence complaint, domestic violence homicides actually increased, possibly because abused women were more reluctant to report domestic abuse out of the fear that their partners would be arrested.

The gun bill that my colleagues cite, the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, does nothing to reduce the number of guns. Rather, it seeks to apply a uniform standard of enforcement to a patchwork of state gun laws. It was proposed in response to cases like that of medical student Meredith Graves, who in 2011 was arrested in New York City for self-reporting her concealed weapon (which was legal in her home state of Tennessee) to police when she learned that guns were prohibited at the 9/11 Memorial. At the time, she was charged with a felony that, if convicted, would have ruined her medical career.  

Many who watched the recent videos released by the Center for Medical Progress believe that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit (which would be a violation of federal law) since Planned Parenthood executives were shown apparently haggling over prices for fetal organs and joking about using money to buy luxury cars. For this reason, the House of Representatives voted to transfer the public funding of Planned Parenthood to other community health centers that provide vital services to women that Planned Parenthood does not provide directly, such as mammograms.

Certainly, my colleagues have the right to express displeasure with Price’s politics. The ability to freely express and challenge ideas is the cornerstone of an open educational environment and a free society. But to suggest that individuals are unfit for leadership, or even to speak and be heard, simply because they disagree with one’s extremely partisan policy positions is antithetical to both free speech and the spirit of diversity at the University. A large part of being a successful physician is having the ability to work with patients who may have views and experiences very different from our own. I applaud the Medical School administration for inviting a strong conservative voice to our campus, allowing students to hear from distinguished individuals with different worldviews. I believe that interacting with individuals with whom we may disagree will make us all more thoughtful students and citizens. We should promote a culture where all students are heard and encouraged to become America’s future leaders.

Benjamin D. Long is a second-year Medical student.

 

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