University Of Michigan Med Students Walk Out On Forced Birther's Keynote Speech

Abortion
University Of Michigan Med Students Walk Out On Forced Birther's Keynote Speech

Throngs of new University of Michigan medical students walked out of their own white coat ceremony on Sunday to protest the school's choice for keynote speaker, an assistant professor with a history of publicly advocating against abortion. The students had previously filed a petition asking the school to replace Dr. Kristin Collier with an alternative speaker, signed by 100 incoming students, 248 current students and 76 others including alumni, residents, physicians, and graduate students, but the school decided to go ahead with its decision anyway.



The White Coat Ceremony is a particularly important day for University of Michigan's new medical students. It's the day they get their white coats, signifying their entry into the field of medicine. It is a day that is supposed to be about the students. In the parlance of ladies on bridal reality shows, it is their special day. For the school to ignore them and use their day to give a platform to someone who wishes to take away their reproductive rights, particularly right after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, was pretty offensive to many students.

In the petition, the students explained that while they respected Dr. Collier's right to freedom of speech and religion, they felt they deserved a speaker "whose values align with institutional policies, students, and the broader medical community," as well as one who "inspire[s] the next generation of healthcare providers to be courageous advocates for patient autonomy and our communities." As aspiring doctors, a speaker who would restrict access to medical care was not someone they felt should be honored in that way.

“I’m already scared that I’ve chosen to attend school in a state where I may very well lose my right to a safe abortion, and the decision by UMMS to have Dr. Collier as a keynote speaker makes this even scarier," one student was quoted as saying. "It makes me seriously doubt whether the school will continue to advocate for reproductive rights.”

“There are those who will say that healthcare and medicine ought to be an apolitical space, and that our cohorts' rejection of Dr. Kristin Collier as speaker is thereby inappropriate in that it represents a political position. But medicine is inherently political in so far as the health of current and future patients is dictated and shaped by social and political forces." said another. "More so, it is simply irrational and inconsistent for Dr. Collier to speak at a ceremony wherein incoming students vow to uphold patient autonomy when she herself devalues such a moral principle. I am deeply disappointed in the selection of Dr. Collier for keynote speaker and do not wish to listen to her words, nevertheless be inspired by them at the beginning of my medical education."

It is not necessary for every person to have every platform, particularly platforms that are intended to be an honor. As one student said, "her appearance would be better suited for a learning opportunity or debate at a different time, not at a ceremony where families will be in attendance and potential resentment will sour the occasion.” Which it clearly did!

That being said, good for these students for standing up for themselves, as well as for their future patients.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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