If the name Kychelle Del Rosario rings a bell, congratulations on a truly excellent memory for egregious academic-medical wokeness. For the rest of us, a refresher course may be in order.
On March 29, 2022, Del Rosario, a fourth-year medical student at Wake Forest, tweeted about her interaction with a patient during what should have been a routine blood draw. According to the med student’s own account, the patient in question noticed Del Rosario’s “She/Her” pronoun pin, laughed, and expressed consternation that any such identifier should be necessary. In response, Del Rosario intentionally “missed [the patient’s] vein so he had to get stuck twice.”
A fitting punishment for thoughtcrime? Some might say so. Nevertheless, the tweet went viral, Republicans “pounced,” and Del Rosario found herself at the center of an intense (if transitory) national conversation.
Was Wake Forest’s own Med Student Ratched eventually allowed to return?Though Wake Forest attempted to smooth things over with a statement two days later, the outrage of conservatives, amateur ethicists, and fellow med students remained undampened. By mid-April, the medical school’s promise of a “leave of absence” for Del Rosario had hardened into an “extended leave.”
Was Wake Forest’s own Nurse Ratched—sorry, Med Student Ratched—eventually allowed to return? The Martin Center recently attempted to find out.
To begin with, we contacted the medical school’s officer for local and regional media relations. Next, we reached out to Del Rosario herself via a third party who agreed to pass along our interview request. Unsurprisingly, both of these avenues were dead ends, as the Martin Center received not so much as an unkind word in reply.
Yet clues were available to be sniffed out. Every year, the Wake Forest School of Medicine publishes a “house officer appointment list,” which celebrates medical graduates’ “matches” with residency programs in their area of specialization. Neither the 2022 nor the 2023 list includes Del Rosario’s name.
Nor is Del Rosario trackable through a directory of all active National Provider Identifier (NPI) records. This strongly suggests that she is not an active resident or physician, at least under her given name.
Despite her 2022 setback, Del Rosario has continued to publish in both popular and peer-reviewed venues. Here, too, may be hints concerning her whereabouts. On May 2 of this year, the (former?) med student composed a letter to the editor of the Virginian-Pilot advocating against a then-pending parental-notification law (!) and listing her residence as Virginia Beach (rather than Winston-Salem). While scholarly articles co-authored by Del Rosario since her suspension have listed Wake Forest as her “affiliation,” it is likely that these pieces were already in the publication pipeline when Del Rosario’s tweet upended her career. It would not, in other words, be fair to assume that such affiliation statements indicate a readmission to Wake Forest’s medical program.
In short, there is simply no evidence that Del Rosario’s “extended leave” has yet ended or ever will. Nor does another med school appear to have accepted her as a transfer student, a process made intentionally difficult by the Association of American Medical Colleges. To be sure, the readmittance (or transfer acceptance) of Del Rosario would result in a bad news cycle for Wake Forest or whatever institution attempted it, assuming conservative media outlets caught wind of the move. Thus, the young physician-in-training’s medical career may really be over, snuffed out before it began by a startlingly foolish act of woke aggression.
So wedded is Wake Forest to progressive orthodoxies that the appearance of a Del Rosario seems entirely foreseeable.Is Wake Forest to blame for this entire mess? In a practical sense, the answer is a hard “no”: Del Rosario made her bed in defiance of common sense, basic decency, and the ethical guidelines by which even med students must abide. She must now lie in it.
In a deeper, philosophical sense, however, it is tempting to find the medical school not only partially but primarily culpable. So wedded is Wake Forest to progressive orthodoxies that the appearance of a Del Rosario seems, in retrospect, entirely foreseeable.
Take, for instance, the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) apparatus described by Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s website. (The Wake Forest School of Medicine is Atrium Health’s medical-education wing.) Among the academic-medical center’s promised DEI initiatives are:
- equitable health “outcomes” (rather than equal treatment);
- “transformative” equity (which, unless its name misleads, presumably rejects much current medical wisdom and practice);
- staff and student “affinity” groups (through which neo-segregationists divide teammates by race, gender, and sexual orientation);
- “bias”-reduction training (with all of the doublethink, hectoring, and collective guilt that that process entails).
On the issue of transgenderism, Atrium Wake Health has been particularly active in recent years. Earlier this month, the Martin Center obtained copies of an “annual required training” given to all providers, faculty, and staff. Introduced as part of a broader “We Ask-We Care” initiative, the training instructs medical professionals to ask patients about their “gender identity” and to “ensure [that they] know why we are asking these questions.” Packed with anti-scientific nonsense, it warns that “some patients may be uncomfortable or defensive when asked questions about their gender identity.” Yet doctors must proceed anyway, lest a benighted patient class block the door to utopia. Can anyone doubt that such thinking filters down to medical students?
It is tempting, given the ghastliness of the alternative, to dismiss Kychelle Del Rosario as a one-off villain: wokeness’s phantasm in human form, armed with stethoscope and chart. A more distressing alternative is, alas, more likely. By mandating ideologically fraught encounters, Atrium Wake Health and similar academic-medical entities are introducing unnecessary tension into the doctor-patient relationship. It is all but inevitable that there will be consequences: not the “implicit bias” so feared by the Left but explicit acts of harm performed by immature, social-media-addicted, performatively woke practitioners. Today’s Del Rosario gave a patient an unnecessary prick. Will tomorrow’s amputate the wrong limb?
By mandating ideologically fraught encounters, Atrium Wake Health is introducing unnecessary tension into the doctor-patient relationship.Slippery slopes aside, there are already signs that the rejection of approved narratives is rendering some Americans unfit to interact with the country’s academic-medical establishment. Earlier this year, a clinic associated with Oregon Health & Science University reportedly ceased treating a breast-cancer patient because of her “hurtful remarks about our LGBTQ community.” (The woman had complained about a transgender flag in the waiting room.) Around the same time, Washington State University terminated a pediatrician’s contract because of her heterodox Covid testimony before a U.S. Senate roundtable. Has Wake Forest begun dismissing patients and doctors because of their politics? It doesn’t appear so. Nevertheless, as a source close to Atrium Wake Health recently told the Martin Center, “Try, as an instructor, going against [the] DEI narrative.”
The job of medical programs is to train skillful, learned, and caring physicians. That cannot happen if woke doctrines begin to crowd out traditional therapeutic concerns, a process that is clearly underway at Wake Forest and elsewhere.
So where is Kychelle Del Rosario now? She’s at a hundred American med schools near you.
Graham Hillard is the editor of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.