UK doctor who told students to act ‘straight’ — fights back

September 26, 2012
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Dr Una Coales, who last week was accused of telling medical students to avoid acting gay if they wanted to pass their exams, has hit back at the criticism.

Dr Coales made the recommendations in a guide and she is now being investigated by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

It’s claimed she suggested gay students should speak in deeper voices and alter their body language in order to increase their chances of doing well in the RCGP’s Clinical Skills Assessment.

Regarding what she called the “camp” category of students, she said:

“One candidate was facing a 3rd sitting and yet no one had told him that his mannerism, gait, speech were too overtly gay, and that he was sitting an exam administered by a right-wing conservative Royal College.

“So I advised him to lower and deepen his high-pitched voice, neutralise the excessive body movements and walk like a ‘straight’ man.”

Writing in the Independent in a piece entitled “Don’t shoot the messenger” – in the same paper which broke the story via the journalist Patrick Strudwick – Dr Coales said that she was simply telling students to adopt behaviour that would make them less likely to suffer from “subjective bias”.

She cited her own experience of progressing through the medical profession, having battled prejudice, and revealed how she deleted her surname “Choi” from her CV at the recommendation of a renowned surgeon.

“For me, discrimination in medicine was stomach-churning. Gay people had the added agony of deciding whether to be discreet (or even lie) about their sexuality.

Dr Coales continued: “The greatest barrier to racial and sexual equality is institutional denial. Working in NHS hospitals, I learned the phrase “be a grey man”, which means don’t cause waves, don’t stand out, don’t speak up, turn a blind eye, and keep your head low.

“The consequence of “talking about the fight club” – in other words, racism, discrimination or selective social engineering was “career suicide”.

In comments that are likely to put renewed focus on the Royal College of General Practitioners – Dr Coales reiterated in her article how was she “given similar advice” when she was first elected to the RCGP.

She concludes by saying: “My advice has helped hundreds of doctors pass their exams by reducing bias and placing them on an equal footing”.

Last week, the council’s chief executive, Neil Hunt was keen to dismiss Dr Coales views, saying: “The RCGP does not endorse the book, the author did not write it in her capacity as a member of the RCGP Council, and we reject the advice given”.

More: Dr Una Coales, England, Equality, Independent, London, Neil Hunt, RCGP, Royal College of General Practitioners

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