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Nice As We Can Be?

January 21, 2024
by Mark David Siegel

Hi everyone,

I was repeatedly bullied as a medical student. On ENT, while recovering from mono, I arrived late to a conference, whereupon the Department Chair sat me down in the front row so I could absorb the stares from the audience behind me. On Ob, the Chief Resident told a patient that our team consisted entirely of women, ignoring my existence. On neurosurgery, an attending publicly demanded that I identify an obscure structure at the base of the brain, knowing I couldn’t answer the question. Each episode left me feeling angry, alone, and ready to escape New York.

Back then, I didn’t understand or recognize medicine’s pernicious tradition of bullying. Decades later, the worst abuses have receded, but many trainees—especially women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants, and religious minorities—still absorb the blows.

Last Thursday, Ramya Kaushik asked us to address mistreatment at her brilliant Grand Rounds. That evening, Christine Doherty and Korynne DeCloux continued the discussion at the Executive Council, describing essential work being done by their resident group, Women in Trad IM. In both sessions, we heard about trainees who were mistreated because of their identity. We also heard about witnesses who stood by silently, shrugging their shoulders, or worse, opining that bullying is an inevitable part of residency.

As Program Director, I call B.S. Bullying is not inevitable and it’s not acceptable, whether it comes from patients, colleagues, faculty, or staff. I’m glad we’re addressing mistreatment and thankful we’re setting our expectations high.

I love our residency’s motto, “good as any, nicer than most,” and I believe most of us embrace this spirit, from the Chair down. I’ve never worked with a kinder group of people anywhere, but we’re not perfect. We’re still not as nice as we can be.

Ask yourself: If you witnessed bullying tomorrow, what would you say? What will you do personally to make our residency safer and more inclusive?

We may be as good as any, nicer than most, but we can do better, and we won’t rest until everyone in this community is treated consistently with the kindness, good will, and respect that all people deserve.

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone. I’m heading out into the cold for a brisk hike. When I return, I’m going to light a fire and read the latest batch of applicants’ personal statements.


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Submitted by Mark David Siegel on January 21, 2024