The pandemic points to an important lesson: a rejection of traditional leadership structures, at least those that feed into a profit-based medical system, may be necessary in order to create a different world. The union provides such a framework, vesting power in a collective of voices. But in order to succeed at the level of a union, physicians need to let their voices join that collective — they cannot expect a delegate or representative alone to do the entire job, just as we might expect a program director to guide us in the right direction.
I learned to trust my own discomfort as an indicator of the toxic power dynamics that breed abuse for both patients and health workers. I became even more attuned to the pitfalls of professionalism because of my membership in Put People First! PA (PPF-PA), a human rights organization made up of working-class people building power to win universal health care.
On October 16, 2019, our collective of health care workers at Yale University disrupted the meeting of the Graduate Medical Education Committee. Heads turned and followed us to the front of the lecture hall, where we unfurled our banner declaring “Doctors are Humans Too.”