The American Heart Association retracts article after author is slammed on Twitter.
A paper published in the March edition of the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) denouncing affirmative action policies in the medical field has been retracted by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief and the AHA. The discriminative content of the article seemed to go largely unnoticed until this month when Norman C. Wang, MD, MSc, an electrophysiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who wrote the paper, was suddenly slammed on Twitter as being “racist.”
The AHA article, titled “Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity: Evolution of Race and Ethnicity Considerations for the Cardiology Workforce in the United States of America From 1969 to 2019,” was meant to be a detailed overview of equity and inclusion practices to “critically assess current paradigms, and to consider potential solutions to anticipated challenges,” according to Wang. Part of the assessment included statements criticizing the use of affirmative action in medical schools and cardiovascular training programs with a quote from tennis legend Arthur Ashe, who once said, it is “an insult to the people it is intended to help.”
According to Wang, “racial and ethnic preferences for undergraduate and medical school admissions should be gradually rolled back with a target end year of 2028…” He argues that the policies have only led to an increase in underqualified applicants admitted solely on the basis of race who subsequently tend to struggle in the programs. Wang wrote,”Many do not complete their intended programs or do not attain academic success to be attractive candidates for subsequent educational programs or employment.”
Although it is unclear how the article was able to go unnoticed for several months, the AHA said it would immediately retract it after it “became aware of serious concerns after publication. The author’s institution, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), has notified the Editor‐in‐Chief that the article contains many misconceptions and misquotes and that together those inaccuracies, misstatements, and selective misreading of source materials strip the paper of its scientific validity.”
The notice indicated the journal will soon be publishing a rebuttal to the viewpoint expressed in the original. The AHA stated, “This retraction notice will be updated with a link to the rebuttal when it publishes” and the letter further states, “The Editor‐in‐Chief deeply regrets publishing the article and offers his apologies. The American Heart Association and the Editor‐in‐Chief have determined that the best interest of the public and the research community will be served by issuing this notice of retraction. The author does not agree to the retraction.”
“This article is shocking and makes me sad,” Martha Gulati, MD, University of Arizona, Phoenix, said. “We are all working so hard to make cardiology more inclusive and diverse, and this takes us like 1000 steps backwards.” She added, “The analysis was selective and incorrect, and the statements made intimate that minority trainees were selected based on affirmative action rather than their merits.”
“This is a standard argument of opponents to affirmative action,” said Quinn Capers IV, MD, an interventional cardiologist and the vice dean for faculty affairs at Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus. “This is the strongest weapon opponents to affirmative action have, and they keep coming back to it, but it’s out of step with how many in academic medicine feel. Standardized tests and academic records are important, but so are the experiences one has gone through and the individual attributes they may have. How resilient are you? How compassionate? Our embrace of this more holistic approach, I believe, is helping many medical schools move toward having a more diverse class that is closer to reflecting the needs of our multicultural and multiracial society.”