What Role Should Resistance Play in Training Health Professionals?

Acad Med. 2021 Jul 6. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004225. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The role that resistance plays in medicine and medical education is ill-defined. Although physicians and students have been involved in protests related to the COVID-19 pandemic, structural racism, police brutality, and gender inequity, resistance has not been prominent in medical education's discourses, and medical education has not supported students' role and responsibility in developing professional approaches to resistance. While learners should not pick and choose what aspects of medical education they engage with, neither should their moral agency and integrity be compromised. To that end, the authors argue for professional resistance to become a part of medical education. This article sets out a rationale for a more explicit and critical recognition of the role of resistance in medical education, by exploring its conceptual basis, its place both in training and practice, and the ways in which medical education might more actively embrace and situate resistance as a core aspect of professional practice. The authors suggest different strategies that medical educators can employ to embrace resistance in medical education and propose a set of principles for resistance in medicine and medical education. Embracing resistance as part of medical education requires a shift in attention away from training physicians solely to replicate and sustain existing systems and practices and toward developing their ability and responsibility to resist situations, structures, and acts that are oppressive, harmful, or unjust.