Dozens of incoming University of Michigan med students STORM OUT of pro-life doctor’s keynote address during white coat initiation ceremony – and she didn’t even discuss abortion
Incoming University of Michigan medical school students staged a walk-out during the pro-life keynote speaker’s speech during their White Coat Ceremony.
Hundreds of students had previously petitioned to get Dr Kristin Collier, assistant professor of medicine at UMMS, removed from the initiation because of her anti-abortion stance.
But after their first protest failed, dozens of students got up from their seats and left the auditorium as Christian Dr Collier took to the stage to address them.
Footage shows some of those present clapping as Dr Collier starts her speech, but others stood and filed out as she continued to speak.
Starting her speech, Collier said that she was ‘honored’ to have been chosen as the speaker, ignoring the mass walkout.
Students protested the keynote speech by Dr Kristen Collier during their White Coat Ceremony at the University of Michigan. Previously they had launched a petition to get her removed, calling her pro-life views ‘inappropriate’ for the speech
Footage from inside the auditorium at the university show dozens of new students in white coats marching outside, accompanied with some of their parents. The school’s dean, Dr. Marschall Runge, had rejected their petition to stop Collier being keynote speaker
She said: ‘I want to acknowledge the deep wounds our community has suffered over the past several weeks. We have a great deal of work to do for healing to occur.
‘And I hope that for today, for this time, we can focus on what matters most: coming together to support our newly accepted students and their families with the goal of welcoming them into one of the greatest vocations that exist on this earth.’
She has previously spoken on a ‘Pro-Life’ Feminism panel discussion hosted Notre Dame Office of Life & Human Dignity, an office within the McGrath Institute for Church Life in 2019.
Collier’s speech was not expected to be about pro-life, but her comments to the students did not appear to be centered around the issue.
Her reference to ‘deep wounds’ was a possible reference at the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade.
She has previously tweeted about her views, posting: ‘Holding on to a view of feminism where one fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable.
Some people have hit out at the doctor for her views, despite the speech not being centered around the pro-life and abortion issue
During her speech Dr Collier urged students not to become ‘machines’, and talked about the pressures of becoming a physician. She also spoke about losing a close friend while she was a student at the University of Michigan, studying to become a doctor
The walk out sparked a debate in the community, with some calling for students who walked out to have their placements revoked or be ‘barred from medicine’
‘I can’t not lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy.
‘Liberation that costs innocent lives is just oppression that is redistributed.’
DailyMail.com has contacted Dr Collier and the University of Michigan Medical School for a comment.
The protest included new students donning their medical white coats as well as some of their parents.
It has sparked a backlash against the students, with some people calling for those who walked out should have their placements revoked or be ‘barred from medicine’.
Others have hit out at Dr Collier, calling her speech ‘trite and unrealistic’ with another adding that he was a ‘danger’ to women for ‘withholding medical care’.
But some called her words ‘beautiful’, with one adding: ‘Dr. Collier, I applaud you for your grace, conviction and courage. We need more physicians like you.’
One student said: ‘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.
Dr Collier thanked her supporters ahead of the speech for encouraging her and helping her prepare for it – posting a picture of her white Michigan Med coat
After their first protest failed, dozens of students got up from their seats and left the auditorium as Christian Dr Collier took to the stage to address them
‘It makes me seriously doubt whether the school will continue to advocate for reproductive rights.’
Another added: ‘I am attending UMMS in large part because of their progressive approach to health care and education, and the choice to have Dr. Collier as keynote speaker makes me question my decision.’
Others called her appearance at the initiation ‘inappropriate’, adding that she would be better suited to a ‘learning opportunity or debate’ at a different time.
Writing in the petition, they said: ‘While we support the rights of freedom of speech and religion, an anti-choice speaker as a representative of the University of Michigan undermines the University’s position on abortion and supports the non-universal, theology-rooted platform to restrict abortion access, an essential part of medical care.
‘This is not simply a disagreement on personal opinion; through our demand we are standing up in solidarity against groups who are trying to take away human rights and restrict medical care.
‘We demand that UM stands in solidarity with us and selects a speaker whose values align with institutional policies, students, and the broader medical community.
‘This speaker should inspire the next generation of healthcare providers to be courageous advocates for patient autonomy and our communities.’
Their petition claimed that 100 new students signed the document, as well as 248 current pupils, but it was ultimately denied by the school’s dean, Dr. Marschall Runge.
Dr Collier has been open about her pro-life views, which caused the backlash amongst the students. Their petition claimed that 100 new students signed the document, as well as 248 current pupils
Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan-owned centre, continues to provide abortion services as abortion remains legal in the state, after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, pictured, filed a motion
He said that Collier, who is also the director of the UMMS Program on Health Spirituality & Religion, did not make any mention of abortion or any political topic during her speech.
Dr Runge added that she ‘simply encouraged students and parents’ and offered them advice on what to expect as they begin their careers in the healthcare field.
In his decision to reject the petition, he expressed the ‘critical importance of diversity of personal thought and ideas, which is foundational to academic freedom and excellence.’
Ahead of the event, Collier thanked her supporters for encouraging her and helping her prepare for the speech.
Michigan is one of five states which automatically banned terminations after historic laws superseded by the 1973 Roe ruling automatically came back into place.
But Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan-owned centre, continues to provide abortion services as abortion remains legal in the state, after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer filed a motion.
Democrat Whitmer is seeking to bypass lower courts and asking the Michigan Supreme Court to strike down Michigan’s 1931 law as violating Michigan’s state constitution.
The 1931 law criminalizes abortions not performed to save the life of the pregnant person.
Dr Kristin Colliers keynote address speech which caused mas med student walk out
Good afternoon, I’m quite honored to have been chosen as this year white coat ceremony speaker. I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone who has joined us for this especial day especially to our new students their families, and their loved ones. For a med student outside of graduation his is the day in your prof life that in my option means the most it represents the line between the before and the after.
This morning you walked in here as a layperson on the outside of the profession and this afternoon you will walk out of here as someone on the inside. That’s what I want to talk with out about today. How to make it on the inside. And not just how to survive but to thrive and to flourish. But before I do I want to acknowledge the deep wounds our community has suffered over the past several weeks. We have a great deal of work to do for healing to occur. And I hope that for today, for this time, we can focus on what matters most: coming together to support our newly accepted students and their families with the goal of welcoming them into one of the greatest vocations that exist on this earth. The vocation of medicine.
I was once like you sitting in that very seat in this very auditorium in 1997 that mixture of excitements and nerves, sort of wondering how I got here and how I was going to do it, was I worth of being here? Did I make the right decision? Why didn’t I go to business school? But in my remarks today I would like to share three pieces of advice that I hope will help you flourish on the inside.
The first one is you are not a machine, and neither is your patient. The second is ask big questions and the third is practice gratitude. Regarding her first one you will soon realize that doctors speak in a language that is quite unique to the profession. One of the phrases you will often hear is when someone says something about a colleague like ‘oh she’s a machine’ and it is often use in a way that is laudatory. Where someone is respected because they’re seen to be getting stuff done often in a very superhuman way not needing sleep, cranking it out, being super productive.
While we of course respect folks who work hare here and accomplish much I would remind you that you are not a machine, but neither should you strive to be one. Because if you lapse into that way of thinking you strip away the very essence of what medicine is. Medicine is not merely a technical endeavor but above all else it is a human one. And the great work The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck writes a story about a family of low resources during the great depression who are driven from their home because of drought and economic hardship it was a time of great expansion of technological and industrial advancement, especially around the vocation of farming Steinbeck reflects upon the nature of man when he writes ‘carbon is not a man nor salt nor water nor calcium he is all these but he is much more much more and the land is so much more than its analysis that man who is more than his chemistry that man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis but the machine man driving a dead tractor on land he does not know and love understands only chemistry and he is contemptuous of the land and of himself’.
Let’s read that last line again ‘the machine man understands only chemistry and he is contemptuous of the land and of himself what if I substituted the word patient in for the word land, he becomes contemptuous of the patient and of himself’. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about the crisis of physician burnout this syndrome and its causes are very complex, but the result of burnout is depersonalization. Where you can start seeing the patient in front of you, the one that you went into medicine for as a non-person, and you can become truly contemptuous of the patient. They’re just something in your way of getting out of this place and your feelings toward yourself can become disordered as well.
You will soon start learning a lot of biochemistry, a lot of pharmacology, a lot of histology and that’s great. The science is really beautiful and there’s so much science to know. But the risk of this education and the one that I fell into was that you come out of medical school with a bio-reductionist mechanistic view of people and ultimately of yourself you can easily end up seeing your patients such as a bag of blood and bones. Or viewing life, it’s just molecules in motion. I assume that most of you didn’t come into medicine to take care of a receptor, a symptom, an organ or even a disease. These things are important, but they are happening and inside human beings. Don’t take your eye off the ball. You are not technicians taking care of complex machines, but human beings taking care of other human beings and human beings are fallible.
You will soon become all too familiar with all the ways in which human bodies are fallible and this profession can test the limits of your bodies as well. Unlike a machine you do need sleep, food, rest and most of all love. If we become mere machines then we can just step aside and let robots be the next generation of physicians. To be fair robots can often be more accurate than we are with diagnostics, they can be faster. You’ve probably seen more stories of robots of late being built to provide care in nursing homes, but machines and robots can’t care for anyone. Task completion is not care. Medicine is embodied profession where two people come together in one of the most sacred relationships that there are. Get to know your patients as human beings, not just their scans, labs, chemistries and data. The disease may be unique, may not be unique, but every person is. Let’s resist a view of our patients and ourselves that strips us of our humanity and takes away from the very goal of why most of us went into this profession in the first place.
To take care of human beings entrusted to our care in their moments of greatest need. Number two, ask big questions and lean in on the humanities to do so. Many of you have come to us from liberal arts colleges and universities and have studied big questions in fields like anthropology, sociology, theology, philosophy and literature to name a few. Not only is now not the time to stop asking big questions but probably at no other time are the big questions more critical to ponder. If you haven’t had a chance to ask big questions now is the time. Your answer to these questions has real impact on real lives. Questions like what does it mean to be human? Why do human beings matter? Who do we include in our moral sphere of concern? What is health? What is medicine? And what is it for biomedical education?
As we have discussed is science and technology heavy, as it should be but let me tell you once you’re in practice the scientific questions are not the hardest questions that you will face in your day-to-day patient care. The great ancient philosopher Aristotle wrote about three types of knowledge: the first one is episteme. That’s bare scientific knowledge like concerned with knowing what something is the facts. The second type of knowledge is techne which is knowing how to do something mechanically or procedurally and today encompasses the copies use of technology. The third type of knowledge is phronesis, which is a very different type of knowledge from the other two and what today we would call wisdom.
Phronesis is practical wisdom, knowing the why towards what good of something. Modern medicine is excellent at both episteme, knowledge of the what, and techne, knowledge of the how, but philosophical questions or questions of the why are largely absent in the practice of medicine. The phronesis or why of medicine cannot be explored in a technical model. Philosophies literally translated the love of wisdom medicine needs a philosophical lens to be able to see why medicine knows what it knows and does what it does and without such a lens medicine robs itself of a proper understanding of its goals, meaning and purpose and reduces itself to a mechanistic production.
To give you an example of what asking a big question looks like I give a lot of talks on bioethics. I love asking the question to my audience of what is health. People assume that they know the answer, that everyone has the same general idea of what health is but often folks actually haven’t had an opportunity to really ponder that question. The best answer I ever received on this question was from a med student here. She told me the following, she said that she had been an anthropology major in Iowa as an undergrad and had done qualitative research interviewing farmers asking them what they thought health was. And she said time and time again the farmers kept saying things like ‘I don’t consider myself healthy unless the soil on my farm is healthy, the crops are healthy, the animals on my land are healthy and my neighbors are healthy’.
It was a beautiful antidote to the impoverished answer I often get when I ask what health is. Which is the absence of disease and instead speaks to a vision of health that extends even beyond the individual and speaks to a communal flourishing that involves the entire created order and a picture of shalom. Your answer to these questions has real consequences is they will impact your view of the patient. What you think healthcare is or isn’t and what you might want to advocate for on research. If you don’t develop a philosophy of medicine so to speak you risk getting burned out and trained by the hidden curriculum to be a mere technician. Traditional medical education often doesn’t teach health as shalom, but health as techne. Number three, practice gratitude and cultivate the proper place of medicine.
This profession unlike many others provides ample opportunity to become acquainted with grief. Remember you could have gone to business school but in becoming acquainted with grief you will hopefully develop an appreciation for what truly matters and what doesn’t. Not as frequently at this hospital there are cars in our parking garages left behind from when someone has walked into this place and never walked back out. When you are taking care of patients no matter how long your day has been, what you’ve had to do, what you’ve had to miss to be here that for that moment in time you aren’t the one in the sick bed.
When I was a third year resident here my chief resident Jake became ill and he became the one in the sick bed. He had been interviewing for a competitive fellowship position in academic cardiology. He had been losing weight looking tired but we all know he had been busy. He kept telling us that he had been busy. One night shortly after arriving home from a flight he presented to our emergency department with shortness of breath and was found to have a massively enlarged liver due to the presence of multiple terrible masses.
We were hoping that this was something easy or at least easier than what he ended up having, which I won’t even name here because my anger at his particular disease has decided that its name doesn’t deserve a place in this speech about my friend. But what he had was bad, it ended up taking his life. It was over the course of that year that our institution watched our friend die. But we also saw him live and it was painful. It was even more shocking to us at some level was that we couldn’t save one of our own here we were one of the largest academic hospitals in the world with all the technology treatments at our disposal.
A chair of medicine at the time was an oncologist for god’s sake yet Jake got sicker. We couldn’t cure him, and he died on our watch. We lost our friend, and the world lost a great son, husband, brother and doctor. Those of us who survived lost additional things collectively. We lost the deeply held belief that medicine could be our savior. What had happened in part is that many of us had made medicine into what theologians call an idol. We had placed unrealistic hope into something that medicine didn’t deserve and couldn’t live up to. When our idols come crashing down pain ensues, but the right order of things shines out of that darkness.
I have since grown to understand the limits of medicine that are important for me to realize as I grow into the physician that I need to be I wish I could have come to know these painful shoes in a different way, in an easier way. But I still talk about Jake and what he taught me about medicine and the limits of the vocation to which I have chosen to dedicate my life. So how can we not be destroyed by what we see? How can the suffering we see help us paradoxically flourish on the inside? This profession has a tendency to do one of two things – the suffering can either harden you and make you into a burned out machine or you can allow the vocation to soften you to cultivate compassion love, justice and mercy.
Let medicine do the latter of the two. Secondly medicine needs to come back to the humanities as they can help illuminate these truths most clearly. The mother of narrative medicine Rita Sharon once wrote that training in the humanities lets one see the suffering. She says that’s what the humanities are for. She writes what one gains by the sight of the suffering is the knowledge of the cost of this life.
For those who are prepared you receive a clear eye discernment of this thing, this life, its worth and quote in conclusion in this great work called medicine you should give thanks to those who have come before us. The great philosopher Alastair McIntyre once said that before you ask yourself what am I to do you must answer the question of what story am I a part. You are now part of the story of medicine that’s rich in both tragedy and joy. But you have the potential to shape the future of the story if you resist the temptation to see yourself and others as machines.
If you ask big questions and if you practice gratitude along the way. Welcome to the profession of medicine and go blue.