The Gutting of Leadership in American Medicine — at The Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.
The Boston Globe recently reported that the corporate leadership of Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), under the direction of president Elizabeth Nabel MD, is gutting a hallowed hall.
To be more precise, Dr. Nabel and her posse are not gutting an actual auditorium — though they might as well be.
Rather, in a defunct act of political expediency and disturbed showmanship, they are taking down the portraits of some of American Medicine and Harvard Medical School’s most prominent academic medical leaders.
Since its opening, BWH’s Bornstein Auditorium has been a gathering place for generations of medical professionals, experts and trainees. Over the years, some of the most prominent minds in Medicine have stood at the podium to hold audiences captive — before a portrait collage of leaders in American medicine.
But this collage is now to be disbanded, because it is a collection of portraits of white men. White men whose pictures seem to be offensive to a few trainees with no real knowledge of the institution’s history or these men’s contributions, and who are not white or male — and, clearly, to Nabel who seems to want to portray herself as a champion for women and minorities.
As a surgical trainee in cardiothoracic surgery at BWH, I had the privilege of spending several years amongst some of the best academic clinicians and surgeons I know. Though ultimately that hospital’s gynecology department caused the tragic death of my wife, Amy Josephine Reed MD, PhD, I remain indebted to the men and women who mentored me and made me one of their own and continue to stand by me as one of their own — Dr. Nabel and her posse, excluded, to be sure!
In fact, contrary to the strong historic leadership qualities that marked the institution, when in 2013 Nabel and her posse, people like Drs. Stanley Ashley and Ron Walls, were confronted with a real life and large-scale women’s health hazard they had the ability and the platform to resolve, corruption and weak ethical reasoning prevailed amongst them, instead.
Weak and corrupted thinkers in corporate leadership at BWH snapped into protectionism and aimed to do even more harm.
Now, this woman “leader” and her intellectually defunct posse of well-decorated weaklings are blowing smoke again and posturing for image, publicity and politic’s sake.
To be clear, it is true that until recently American medicine was primarily populated by white men. But, many of those whose portraits hang in Bornstein are truly the giants of American medicine, who created one of the most shining achievements of our civilization.
The underrepresentation of women and minority groups is a tragic reality of America’s past in all arenas — and it must be aggressively corrected, as it is. But wouldn’t it be so much more poignant and authentic if, as diversity shows its face in American leadership, the new faces of American leadership were to be added to Bornstein’s historic collage — instead of gutting the historic collection — to rewrite history or to appease weak egos?
How much more authentic and historically honest would an evolving image be?
For weak and political characters like Nabel and her posse at Harvard Medical School and BWH to be tearing down history — to create their own version, especially given their weak and protectionist thinking, and especially at an institution like Harvard, is a sign of how exceptional things and people in America are being gutted and destroyed from within.
And for what? To be replaced by whom? The likes of Dr. Nabel — who in her various “leadership” roles as a physician is more of a politician and sugar-coater? From her unwillingness to contain harm to women undergoing morcellation at BWH, to her sugarcoating of the concussion hazard as the NFL’s Chief Medical Adviser, to her role in ousting some of the most prominent recent leaders of American medicine and surgery from Harvard and BWH — Nabel is a master of politics, deception and career assassinations. Most astonishing is how she seems able to capitalize on her womanhood to create an illusion of change and balanced leadership.
Oh, and before I forget, as the NFL’s Chief Medical Advisor, has the liberal champion of women and minorities, Dr. Nabel, ever taken a public stand in support of the players who are protesting the murder of their brethren? NO — I see no evidence of any such support from the NFL’s CMA!
I suppose hypocrisy and weakness are the order of the day in leadership these days.
Anyway, the question I’m left with for members of the Harvard community about Bornstein is whether the faces adorning the auditorium are the equivalents of civil war statues from the American South - worthy of burial in the garbage pit of history — or confined to cloisters away from public view? My answer is, most definitively, NOT!
The Bornstein portraits are of American medical leaders whose legacy and history are being torn down and disbanded. And the symbolism cannot be more poignant in the type of current “leaders” doing the disbanding — the corrupt and cognitively defunct are prevailing at the pinnacle of American leadership in medicine.
To be clear, I recognize that my writing can be misconstrued by the superficial reader or the political detractor, as being that of another culturally insensitive white man. But to be sure, I write this commentary as a son of middle-eastern immigrants to America not unfamiliar with discrimination, as a verifiable advocate and activist for women’s health, as husband to a highly accomplished academic physician fallen to corrupt thinking by Nabel’s posse at BWH — and as father to two lovely and accomplished daughters who step in their mother’s footsteps.
Mine, here, are not sexist, insensitive or discriminatory sentiments. As some of the current leaders’ at the Brigham are — on Nabel and her posse’s watch.
And for the record, when I sat in Bornstein as a surgical trainee, and a son of Iranian immigrants to the US, not once did I feel that these white men’s portraits or the institution’s “white” history took away from my earned right to be there — or from my responsibility to make a contribution to medicine and science. To the contrary, I felt privileged and motivated knowing that I was stepping into a prestigious and real legacy created by most, not all, of those “white men” whose portraits hung overhead.
Finally, as I have informed the Boston Globe editors and reporter Ms. Liz Kowalczyk, when the press allows the weak and corrupt to gain a voice and traction in American leadership, ethical laxity will takes hold, as it has at BWH.
I, and many other colleagues, recognize Bornstein’s gutting by Nabel and her posse at BWH as a despicable act of treason against leadership and the history of American Medicine. Certainly the Globe article describing it, is too undeservedly complimentary of a misguided and defunct political act — simply because it appeals to the more liberal sensitivities of a Bostonian audience.
The question is, whom the gutting of medical history, and dishonoring of the de facto founders of American medicine appeases and who are their replacements? for now it seems to be non-substantive political opportunists, like Elizabeth Nabel, and immature youth who, despite having earned and inherited the Harvard title, believe that their future greatness necessitates revising a history they feel rejects them personally on the basis of color. Of course, all the historic evidence at that institution points to the contrary.
And how tragic for Harvard!