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Leading through Education and Dialogue

May 20, 2022

To the YSM Community:

As we anticipate (and even preview) the Supreme Court's decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, I want to take a moment to articulate the communication guidelines of the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) dean’s office and the rationale behind them.

When major events occur locally, nationally, or globally, YSM follows several basic principles in determining whether and how to respond. If an issue impacts the entire university community, we defer to university leaders to speak first. We also respect that, as part of the larger university, YSM does not comment on political issues and should not comment on issues about which other schools harbor greater expertise. Finally, while we appreciate there is often a desire for an immediate response, it is important to pause and ensure we engage in the necessary due diligence to understand the facts and to garner input from leaders and experts. This includes deciding if it is appropriate for the school to issue a public statement.

As a school of medicine, we sometimes lead most effectively by creating a venue in which our community can learn from varied perspectives through honest and difficult discussions. With respect to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a recent poll from the Pew Research Center indicates that citizens in our country hold nuanced views on abortion. In the coming weeks and months, we will collaborate with colleagues across the university to create opportunities to discuss Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. We will discuss the importance of access to health care, the disparate impact when access is denied, and the privacy of the physician-patient relationship. We may consider the medical history of abortion or the extensive changes in reproductive medicine since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. We will learn from the experiences of individual women. We will hear from colleagues in law about constitutional issues and from scholars in religion and ethics. And we will wrestle with the inadequacies of our current scientific understanding of what it is to be human.

Many of our faculty have expertise directly relevant to the questions under consideration and may participate in the writing of statements or guidelines by professional groups. Faculty often write opinion pieces in the media. We value freedom of expression highly at Yale. Best practice requires that we distinguish among rigorous scientific scholarship, news, opinion, and school policy as we publish materials. In general, we do not publish personal opinions on school websites. Individuals who identify themselves as Yale faculty or staff in an editorial or on social media should note they are expressing their own opinion and not the opinion of Yale (and, if applicable, Yale New Haven Health System). Many of our faculty and students will express themselves through protest. We ask that you do so safely and follow the guidelines of the Woodward Report.

We understand that many current events cause stress for members of our community. One of our major priorities is to ensure that every member of our community feels supported and is aware of and has access to the array of institutional resources available to them (e.g., Yale Health, Yale University Employee Assistance Program, Student Mental Health and Wellness Program, the Office of Education, Student Affairs, DEI, affinity groups, and other university offices). Students sometimes ask us to communicate regarding attendance of classes during stressful times; under the Yale System our students have the flexibility to take time out from pre-clinical classes. However, for those who provide clinical care, including students in the clinical clerkships, showing up to be present for patients defines professionalism.

During the coming weeks, months, and years, we will encounter other issues that invoke strong reactions. We are at our best when we model respect in discourse. As clinicians and scientists, and as a community, we must commit to listen, to learn, and to lend our insights to the dialogue.


Nancy J. Brown, MD
Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Medicine
C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine

Christopher M. O’Connor, FACHE
Chief Executive Officer of Yale New Haven Health System