Pittsburgh med students add vow against ‘systemic racism’ to Hippocratic Oath
Benjamin Zeisloft, Campus Reform
- Students at the University of Pittsburgh’s medical school wrote their own Hippocratic Oath.
- The class of 2024’s oath includes vows against “systemic racism” and LGBTQ+ discrimination.
Students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine started a tradition of writing a class oath, to be recited alongside the traditional Hippocratic Oath.
The Hippocratic Oath is a vow to medical best practices that was affirmed by ancient Greek physicians. Today, it is still a tradition to say a version of the Hippocratic Oath at many medical school graduations as a standard of ethical conduct.
In the days before its Aug. 16 white coat ceremony, the class of 2024 presented its new oath to Pitt Medicine administrators. The oath included references to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, “systemic racism,” and LGBTQ+ identity.
Specifically, the oath says that students will be allies to “those of low socioeconomic status, the BIPOC community, the LGBTQIA+ community, womxn/women, differently-abled individuals and other underserved groups in order to dismantle the systemic racism and prejudice that medical professionals and society have perpetuated.”
One Pitt freshman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Campus Reform “I don’t care what they believe, but scientifically there are two genders.”
University of Pittsburgh spokesman Kevin Zwick told Campus Reform that the oath writing process was a “student driven effort,” and that no student is required to participate.
The full text of the oath says the following:
As the entering class of 2020, we start our medical journey amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and a national civil rights movement reinvigorated by the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. We honor the 700,000+ lives lost to COVID-19, despite the sacrifices of health care workers.
We recognize the fundamental failings of our health care and political systems in serving vulnerable communities. This oath is the first step in our enduring commitment to repairing the injustices against those historically ignored and abused in medicine: Black patients, Indigenous patients, Patients of Color and all marginalized populations who have received substandard care as a result of their identity and limited resources.
Acknowledging the privilege and responsibility that come with being a physician, I take this oath as a call to action to fulfill my duty to patients, to the medical profession and to society.
Thereby, I pledge as a physician and lifelong student of medicine:
I will support and collaborate with my colleagues across disciplines and professions, while respecting the patient’s vital role on the health care team.
I will honor my physical, mental and emotional health so as to not lessen the quality of care I provide.
I will carry on the legacy of my predecessors by mentoring the next generation of diverse physicians.
I will recognize the pivotal role of ethical research in the advancement of medicine and commit myself to endless scholarship with the ultimate goal of improving patient care.
I will care for my patients’ holistic well-being, not solely their pathology. With empathy, compassion and humility, I will prioritize understanding each patient’s narrative, background and experiences while protecting privacy and autonomy.
I will champion diversity in both medicine and society, and promote an inclusive environment by respecting the perspectives of others and relentlessly seeking to identify and eliminate my personal biases.
I will be an ally to those of low socioeconomic status, the BIPOC community, the LGBTQIA+ community, womxn/women, differently-abled individuals and other underserved groups in order to dismantle the systemic racism and prejudice that medical professionals and society have perpetuated.
I will educate myself on social determinants of health in order to use my voice as a physician to advocate for a more equitable health care system from the local to the global level.
I will restore trust between the health care community and the population in which I serve by holding myself and others accountable, and by combating misinformation in order to improve health literacy.
In making this oath, I embrace the ever-changing responsibilities of being a physician and pledge to uphold the integrity of the profession in the clinic and beyond.
A modern version of the Hippocratic Oath, written in 1964 by a former Tufts University School of Medicine dean and used in many medical schools today, says the following:
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft