Starting July 23, doctors around the world took to social media to post photos of themselves. in a bikini, using the hashtag #MedBikini. In the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and our broad social awakening to a second pandemic of systemic racism, why would thousands of doctors post photos of something as frivolous as themselves in bathing suits? bath? We are both surgeons and watched this unfold in real time.
It all started with a study published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery who claimed to analyze the behavior of doctors on social media. The study, conducted by a team of researchers based at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, was an attempt to classify vascular surgery trainee positions as professional or non-professional.
Of course, we can point to a number of costly mistakes people have made on social media. Just in the last two months, Nick Cannon lost a contract with ViacomCBS for its long-running improv comedy show Wild ‘N Out because he made anti-Semitic remarks about his podcast. Likewise, MTV cast member Dee Nguyen The challenge, was fired after making racist comments about the Black Lives Matter movement on Twitter and Instagram. Thus, one can understand why the authors were interested in whether internship positions in their own field could be professionally risky.
When the article was widely circulated on Twitter, however, the authors faced backlash for what was seen as their own lack of professionalism. On the one hand, people worried about the methodology used in the study, in which three members of the research team created fake social media accounts to spy on the accounts of these young interns.
The biggest issue, which led to the #MedBikini hashtag, was the authors’ definitions of “unprofessional,” including “controversial political or religious commentary,” “controversial social topics,” and “inappropriate attire.” In the latter category, they included “underwear photos, provocative Halloween costumes, and provocative bikini/swimsuit poses.” And whether or not something was provocative was judged by the almost all-male research team.
The researchers also concluded that doctors should not publish on “controversial” topics such as gun violence or abortion. But doctors have long been spokesperson for social causes. In recent years, doctors have stood up to fight gun violence with the #ThisIsOurLane movement, and with the current administration there have been many challenges related to abortion rights. A lot doctors have rightly spoken of racial disparities in health care outcomes during the COVID pandemic, and when the killing of George Floyd sparked protests around the world, the voices of doctors join this battle cry as well. The Physician Charter on Professionalism, endorsed by more than 108 organizations, states that physicians should promote justice and defend publicly the elimination of discrimination.
Moreover, it is totally inappropriate for researchers to determine whether a woman’s Halloween costume or swimsuit is too “provocative” to be professional. It is unclear how positions of this nature, outside of work, relate to the career of a female doctor. But what this study showed, and why it sparked so much outrage, is how privileged people can use the label of “professionalism” to target women, people of color, sexual and gender minorities. , and anyone else they don’t know. approve.
In defense of the study, Dr. Erica Mitchell, the only female author of the manuscript, said on Twitter: “People are judged every day by what is available on social media in all its forms. This is the reality of today’s world in medicine or any other profession, like it or not These impressions and SM content remain and are difficult to weed out.” But in the face of scathing reviews, she and some of the other review authors and editors later apologized for the article and their approach to the study. The article has now been retracted.
We don’t believe anyone had any malicious intent. But that’s exactly the point. You don’t have to have malicious intent to cause harm. In the same way, the pay gap between men and women, although perhaps unintended, affects women, and implicit physician bias hinders the care of black patients. In this case, the researchers harmed the medical community by suggesting that talking about social causes, consuming alcohol while not working, and wearing a bikini were unprofessional. We may be doctors, but that doesn’t mean we’re not human.
The question is not who these researchers are or even what they did in this particular study. The authors, the institutional review committee (which is supposed to take care of ethical issues), the reviewers of the article and the journal editors all felt that it was worth publishing. Indeed, in the medical culture, the harassment and subjugation of those who do not resemble the dominant group is not only tolerated, it’s the norm.
At least one good thing came out of it, though. It is the outpouring of support for women in medicine, with a number of our male colleagues displaying pictures of themselves in their bathing suits. We’re still battling COVID-19, even though we don’t have all the tools to do so, but maybe this study and the #MedBikini hashtag brought us all together.
Drinking drinks outside of work, wearing a bikini at the beach, and caring about social issues are just as appropriate for us as anyone else. In our minds, advocating for social justice is more than adequate: It’s our duty. The next time you see a doctor, remember that we are human too. And when you see your doctor talking about wearing a bikini or going to a Black Lives Matter protest, we hope you won’t think that’s unprofessional.