This is the second of a series of three articles in which Dr. A. J. Rongy, Chief of Gynecology at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, discusses the problem of discrimination against Jews by the medical schools of this country and the correlated problem of overcrowding of the profession by Jews.
In suggesting a limitation of Jewish medical students, Dr. Kopetzky is trying to avoid further overcrowding with the consequent lowering of standards that the profession knows is inevitable in such an instance. Any intelligent Jew, knowing that Jews are discriminated against on the basis of what the weakest individual Jew does, realizes that a high standard among American-Jewish physicians is a matter of grave importance to American Jewry.
It is thus not on the question of limitation of Jewish medical students that we differ with Dr. Kopetzky. We differ with his methods. In allowing a numerus clausus for Jewish medical students, Jewry would be tantamount to recognizing a minority status for Jews in this country In a very short time, the precedent allowed in the field of medicine would spread. The very essentials of American freedom of religion are opposed to any such limitation of the rights of the Jew to study medicine.
The question is then, what now? From the proofs already given, it is obvious that a too high percentage of Jewish physicians is bad for Jewry as a whole. How can this situation be controlled?
GUIDANCE BEFORE STUDY
For one thing, vocational guidance can be given to young Jews desirous of studying medicine. They should be impressed with the difficulties that lie before them. No one need be forbidden the study of medicine. But those intending to study medicine with no really definite convictions about their so doing should be turned to other fields.
As the situation stands today, we must not overlook the essential fact that every Jewish student of proper competence and talent can eventually succeed in entering the doors of almost every medical school in the country. Undeniably, Jewish applicants must exert greater effort and perseverance than the non-Jews. But such has been the story of Jewish success all through the ages.
A second factor that will keep the total of Jewish physicians down to a reasonable level is the regulatory provisions adapted by the medical schools in their admission of students. The very thing that has been challenged as discrimination results in higher standards of Jewish medical students, a thing to be desired by the Jews of America.
NON-JEWS ALSO AFFECTED
If the point be made that this is a discrimination in favor of wealthy Jewish students, the only answer that can be made is that a simiar situation exists among Gentiles. Dr. Walter E. Vest, in the discussion following the reading of Dr. Bierring’s paper, already previously quoted, said:
“Regardless of how we may feel about it, it seems to me that the medical profession of this country is drifting more and more into the hands of the children of well-to-do parents. The cost of medical education is such that a financially poor student does not stand much of a chance getting through a medical school.”
CRY OF BIAS UNFAIR
In the entire matter of discrimination, Jewry must use the test of motivation. The question is not whether Jews are effected unduly by regulatory practices used in medical school admissions but whether the medical schools attempt to be fair in their admission of Jewish students.
In Germany, under Hitler, the motivation of anti-Jewish legislation and regulation is obviously unfair. In this country, in the case of medical schools, it is doubtful whether this same viewpoint can be held.
The cry of discrimination cannot be fairly and sincerely charged against American medical schools in a country where with a Jewish population that aggregates 3Â½ per cent of the total, Jews are represented by between five and six times their ratio percentage among the medical student body. With this score, can we intelligently impugn the liberal attitude of the admission board?
There is undeniably a measure of discrimination against Jewish students desirous of entering medical schools. But, for the most part, the worthiest of Jewish applicants finally gain admittance.
DISCRIMINATION IS INDIVIDUAL
It can be safely said, without any great fear of contradiction that whatever discrimination is practiced by American medical schools is against the individual Jew as an individual. Certainly, both from the figures at hand and by the personal expressions of the medical deans of the country, there is no evidence to support a charge of group discrimination.
It is also well to consider that in all the hue and cry of anti-Semitism leveled by disappointed would-be medical students and their disgruntled parents there is the very great probability that a large measure of it originated from instances in which there was no prima facie case of discrimination. Students who knew they had been barred for valid and necessary reasons were themselves misled by hearsay, and vindictively resorted to the plaint of anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism, as is well known, can furnish a defensive alibi as well as an inferiority complex. One may possess a thousand faults justifying criticism, and yet proclaim that the faults are but mirages in the eyes of the “antis,” if that one happens to be a weak-natured fool.
JEWISH PHYSICIANS LIMITED
The Jew, like the little boy and his sheep, cannot afford to continually cry “wolf.” Discrimination must be viewed relatively. And with this in mind, it seems patently unfair to raise a hulabaloo about medical college discrimination with the true facts at hand. If Jewry must rally around the banner of discrimination, if we must belligerently seek the absolute freedom that is our constitutional right, there are many more fields other than medicine where a better case can be made.
And, further, in the defense of the medical schools, there are some special problems, peculiar to the medical profession, that can be enumerated as further testimony as to the good-will and decent motivation of the regulatory standards set for admission into medical school.
Already mentioned is the fact that Jewish physicians, for the most part, are limited to Jewish patients and thus to avoid an overcrowding of the field, limitations must be made.
There is also the fact that the medical schools have a duty to the particular States and districts that support them. Thus, when a Jewish student from New York City seeks admission to the University of Georgia medical school, the University has a valid right for not accepting himâ€”a man who will undoubtedly not practice in Georgiaâ€”if a Georgian, or some Southerner from a nearby State without a medical school, seeks admission.
Questioned as to their rules for admission, the Dean of the Medical School of the University of Georgia quite frankly said:
“Our students are selected with reference to the highest scholastic standing, preference being given to bonafide residents of Georgia.”
The Dean of the medical school at Emory University, even more candid, said: “While there is no discrimination against Jewish applicants to the medical school, we do make a practice of selecting students from our own section of the country.”
OWN STATE FAVORED
From this point of view, it is doubtful whether any fair-minded person could make a valid charge of discrimination against these out-of-town schools. The Dean of the Medical Schools of West Virginia University, who said that “we have never refused to admit a Jewish student whose home is in West Virginia,” admirably sums up the problem of the out of New York medical school.
“Since about 1922,” he said, “we have had an increasing number of Jewish students, making application for admission into our School of Medicine, and at first we were able to take quite a number. It is our policy to accept all West Virginians who complete our requirements, as this is a State University, and for this reason we give first advantage to our citizens.
“Of the great number of out-of-state students making applications, the greater number come from the New York City area. I would say that about ninety per cent are Jews and the others are practically all Italians.”
To Be Concluded Tomorrow