We have moved to territory inviting if not beyond satire at the prominent Harvard-affiliated Brigham Health academic health care system in connection with its Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Harvard Medical School’s teaching Hospital). Last week the Boston Globe reported the recent accomplishment of Brigham Health president Dr. Betsy Nabel. Dr. Nabel has removed 31 portraits of former department chairmen from the hospital’s Bornstein amphitheater because they are all men and all but one of them are white. The portraits are to be “dispersed” to conference rooms and lobbies around the hospital. The Globe reports the story in the triumphant tones that we have come to expect in such matters.
Concerned that the lack of diversity might upset women and minorities who are training to become doctors, Dr. Nabel told the Globe she had been considering the move for several years. She sounds like she could make a living as a mind reader if she ever moves on from her present career path. The Globe quotes her: “I have watched the faces of individuals as they have come into Bornstein. I have watched them look at the walls. I read on their faces ‘Interesting. but I am not represented here.’ That got me thinking maybe it’s time that we think about respecting our past in a different way.” At Medium, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm disrespectfully disagrees.
In addition to her responsibilities at Brigham Health, Dr. Nabel is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief Health and Medical Adviser to the National Football League. She is a Minnesota native and St. Olaf College alum. She herself is a woman of pallor. I think it would be far more appropriate for Dr. Nabel to resign her position or commit hari-kiri to make way for a “person of color” than to suggest that the students training under her supervision would be benefited by her patronizing protection.