Sally Satel

I think we can now confidently declare that Yale is the most disgraceful major university in America. On top of the shameful behavior of Yale Law’s Stasi-like diversicrats in the now famous “Trap House” student email, we have recently learned of the fuss about a lecture from Dr. Sally Satel to Yale’s School of Medicine several months ago, based on her extended time living in Ohio and studying the opioid crisis up close. (Sally was a guest on our podcast two years ago discussing her upcoming project. It should be noted that she’s been a long-time lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health, and has also worked extensively at drug treatment clinics.)

Sally has long been a critic of how political correctness has been corrupting medicine, such as in her book PC MD. She’s also disputed the ubiquitous claims that disparate health outcomes among the races are the result of racism, in The Health Disparities Myth (co-authored with  Jonathan Klick).

To paraphrase the old internet clickbait cliche, you’ll totally believe what happened next (because it is so predictable): A “concerned group of Yale Psychiatry residents” issued a letter of complaint. It uses the usual template of the Wokerati:

The language Dr. Satel used in her presentation was dehumanizing, demeaning, and classist toward individuals living in rural Ohio and for rural populations in general. Dr. Satel is known for her highly problematic and racist canon that explicitly blames individuals facing structural inequities for their own health outcomes. . .

We find her canon to be beyond a “difference of opinion” worth debate. Her racist and classist beliefs are particularly harmful to our psychiatric patients, who do indeed suffer from structural inequities, as well as our Black colleagues who also suffer from racism and have had family members die in the medical system because of inequitable treatment by providers. Many residents who have roots in rural America also expressed hurt by her elitist portrayal of Ohio as both foreign and lesser. For example, at one point in her speech, she describes an “artisanal coffee shop, one I would not expect to find here”.

The very title of her piece likens rural Ohio to traveling abroad, another theme we found offensive. While we do promote holding space for diverse opinions, dehumanization should never be given a platform in Yale Department of Psychiatry.

But the worst sin: Satel criticized Al Sharpton!

In another work titled “PC, M.D.” Dr. Satel even has the audacity to challenge Reverend Al Sharpton, an exemplary individual and activist. (Emphasis added.)

“An exemplary individual and activist”???  I’ll just put this out here: anyone who seeks out psychiatric help from any Yale graduate who signed this letter ought to have their head examined.

Satel reflected on the whole scene in a recent piece at Quillette. Excerpt:

In important ways, I hardly recognize my profession. Last year, the Association of American Medical Colleges, a major accrediting body, informed medical schools that they “must employ anti-racist and unconscious bias training and engage in interracial dialogues.” One of my colleagues told me that her school jettisoned lectures in bioethics to make room for the anti-racist curriculum. “Which is ironic,” she said, “because that was where students were taught about subjects like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.” What other essential subjects will anti-racism training displace?

The implementation of the social justice agenda has constrained collegial discourse, challenged the maintenance of standards, and suppressed honest analysis of certain problems. In her article called “What Happens When Doctors Can’t Tell the Truth?,” Katie Herzog wrote of “doctors who’ve been reported to their departments for criticizing residents for being late. (It was seen by their trainees as an act of racism) … I’ve heard from doctors who’ve stopped giving trainees honest feedback for fear of retaliation. I’ve spoken to those who have seen clinicians and residents refuse to treat patients based on their race or their perceived conservative politics.”

On January 8th, 2021, I had my own encounter with intolerance in academic medicine. Via Zoom, I gave a Grand Rounds lecture to the Yale Department of Psychiatry, where I had been a resident for four years and an assistant professor for five. I left New Haven in 1993 to pursue a health policy fellowship in Washington, DC and eventually joined a think tank there, but remained a lecturer in the department. My talk was about the year I spent assisting with treatment efforts in Ironton, a small, embattled town in south-eastern Ohio that was reeling from the opioid crisis.

I discussed the “deaths of despair” phenomenon and showed photos of haunted industrial landscapes and the lonely downtown area. I presented national data on the characteristics of individuals who abused prescription pills and on the frequency with which addiction develops. I talked about the culture of prescribing in rural mining towns and the myriad factors that caused the crisis. I closed by highlighting the heroic efforts of Irontonians to boost the economy and the morale of their beloved town.

One month later, I received an e-mail from the chairman of the department, a fine man and brilliant researcher whom I have known since we were interns together in the 1980s. He admitted that he had not anticipated “the extent of the hurt and offense that folks would take” to my presence. He appended an anonymous complaint that he had received from an unspecified number of “Concerned Yale Psychiatry Residents.”

The residents told the chairman that my talk, coming only two days after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, “was further traumatizing to us.” They wrote that, “the language Dr. Satel used in her presentation was dehumanizing, demeaning, and classist toward individuals living in rural Ohio and for rural populations in general … We find her canon to be beyond a ‘difference of opinion’ worth debate.”

It is hard to see how this madness will end when the people tasked with treating madness have gone mad themselves.

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