We are doomed: attacks on Leana Wen and Monica Gandhi
Recently a junior person told me about a stupid, zero covid policy in her hospital that blocked visitors. She wanted to speak out against it, but ultimately felt it wasn’t worth it. “it is crazy we can’t even say obvious things.”
What she meant was: in the current climate of lunacy, you cannot even point out flawed, illogical, pointless covid policies without being victim of a mob of fellow doctors. In fact, just yesterday, some such physicians were furious with dropping the cloth mask mandate (when not eating) rule on airplanes. Some tweeted that dropping the cloth mask requirement on airplanes would result in babies dying. This hyperbolic rhetoric lacks empirical support— there is no evidence a cloth mask mandate saves babies. But moreover, is illogical: by their own logic, eating pretzels on the flight meant babies die (as you lower your mask to eat them), and yet they were silent. No pretzel is worth the life of a child! Where was the outrage over that?
Recently, peak criticism has fallen on the shoulders of Leana Wen and Monica Gandhi. Not a day goes by where I don’t see a fellow doctor attacking these two professionals. Let me be clear. They don’t attack the policy ideas espoused by the two; they often name them directly and target their attacks on them personally. Often using the screenshot tool, and luring their own merry band of trolls to attack.
One doctor faulted Dr. Wen for lacking credentials. But she was the former Baltimore public health commissioner! Surely she is more than qualified to comment on public health policy! But even if she didn’t hold this post, why not focus on her argument? Credentialism is just ad-hominem.
Others attack Monica Gandhi. Then she blocks them when they cross the line of appropriateness. Then they cry about how she blocked them. It is tedious to open twitter and see Professors whining about being blocked, after repeatedly acting like a jackass.
I truly don’t get it. If your goal is to advance a health policy agenda, and that is my goal, then focusing on individual's is a distraction. You can just press your case for whatever you desire: masking toddlers, wearing an n95 where-ever you like, testing three times a day, or boosting until your troponins rise! You can just press your case, and you don’t need to reference Dr. Gandhi or Wen. In fact, it would be more effective— more persuasive— if you found a clever way to make your point without referencing any other individual.
I personally thought the hand-wringing about dropping mask mandates was hyperbolic. I could have Quote Tweeted someone saying something I disagreed with, but instead I pressed my case without referencing them. This is far more persuasive to a third party.
In the wake of the attacks on Dr Wen, a doctor called me to say, “All Leana Wen said was common-sense, obvious things; If people attack her for saying that, we are doomed.”
Indeed we are doomed. Doctors are middle school kids, acting out their own anxiety in full display of the public. They bully colleagues who disagree, and stoop to ad-hominem. Between that and the horrendous public health blunders— masking toddlers, not considering natural immunity, permitting 4th doses without good RCTs, mandating 3rd dose in college boys even those with recent Omicron!— medicine is not doing well. It will continue to lose trust and fracture into arms of political parties. The death spiral of the profession is coming, and we should all regret that.