On Oct. 1, 2020, Dr. Princess Dennar filed suit against the entity responsible for the corporate acts of Tulane University School of Medicine. The suit alleges that the institutional officer responsible for residency training programs and the dean of the medical school orchestrated an environment that was hostile, racist and sexist. Further, the suit exposed the ATLAS medical student ranking system, created by said institutional officer for use at Tulane, as one that actively and intentionally disadvantages students from historically Black medical schools.
Tulane University was established, “For the promotion and encouragement of intellectual, moral and industrial education among the white young persons in the city of New Orleans.” Those beginnings stand in stark contrast to the awakening of White America to realities facing minorities following the murder of George Floyd. As such, Tulane University President Michael A. Fitts announced in fall 2020 a new plan for promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. He stated, “The historical significance of this moment must be underscored. Each of us is challenged to address our behaviors, practices and systems.”
The New Orleans Medical Association calls on Fitts and the leaders of all health and medical institutions to move from a focus on statements toward concrete actions. As a start we request:
- Senior level leadership changes at the Tulane School of Medicine to reflect the gravity of the situation and a desire to move in a new direction.
- Chief Executives of Diversity, Equity Inclusion, or similarly tasked senior executives, of Tulane School of Medicine, Louisiana State University Health Science Center - New Orleans, Ochsner Health System and other health training networks partner with NOMA to evaluate the recruitment, initiation and retention process for trainee and faculty positions.
- Current students, trainees and faculty be shielded from retaliation, dismissal and negative actions during these tumultuous times.
Tulane Medical School’s current probationary status aside, it must address the underlying problems raised by the lawsuit and numerous complaints. And all institutions training physicians in our community need to answer for past harms and provide substantive action-oriented goals to map a better future for non-White identifying physicians, trainees and students.
MAURICE G. SHOLAS, MD, PhD
physician and New Orleans Medical Association executive committee president