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Retiring a Tradition

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I was surprised to read in my Spring/Summer issue of Hopkins Medicine that the Department of Medicine is retiring the age-old tradition of having its first-year residents wear a short white coat [In Focus]. Reportedly, the action came in response to the residents’ growing discontent: They viewed the coat as “pejorative” and worried that it “potentially reduced patient confidence in the care they were providing.”   

As a full-time medical educator for almost six decades, I have to agree with Sanjay Desai, the residency program director, who wrote, “All institutions have to adapt to stay relevant and to ensure their traditions continue to uphold their core values.” And I would have done exactly what he did—remove a perceived impediment to learning, whether real or imaginary.

Retiring a long-standing tradition is never easy. It typically raises controversy and often leaves some degree of sadness and regret. But now that the short white coat is out of their way, the discontented residents should be able to focus more intently on the opportunity at hand—a preeminent Hopkins education.

Herbert L. Fred ’54

Emeritus Professor of Medicine, McGovern Medical School–UT Health, Houston, Texas

The Importance of Diversity

I applaud “Homing in on Diversity” [Spring/Summer] in its clear presentation of the very important issue of increasing the participation of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty members at the JHU School of Medicine.

As a newly minted assistant professor of psychiatry just graduated from the Phipps program in 1971, I was afforded the opportunity to found what was then called the JHU Community Psychiatry Program under the auspices of the Department of Psychiatry. The goal was to provide psychiatric care to the residents of the East Baltimore Catchment Area, for which Hopkins had been assigned responsibility by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The majority of clinicians participating in that program at that time were African-Americans. Later in my career, as vice chair of a department of psychiatry at a major U.S. medical school (1983–87), I was honored to participate in a program aimed at increasing the acceptance of URM medical students to the school. From these experiences, the importance of these endeavors was abundantly clear to me, as was the need to initiate these efforts at the earliest possible point in the careers of potential recruits.

I would be interested in what activities have been initiated in this regard by this program. I would also be interested in learning the decision-making that went into the omission of the name of perhaps the most celebrated URM former faculty member of the JHU School of Medicine, Dr. Benjamin Carson.

Thomas J. Craig, M.D., M.P.H. '67

Preventive Medicine Resident, 1966–68
Psychiatry House Staff, 1968–71
Faculty Member in Psychiatry, 1971–73

Editor: There are indeed a number of URM former faculty members, such as Ben Carson, whose efforts were important and noteworthy. We regret that we weren’t able to include everyone.