The protest reportedly comes after a petition opposing the selection of Dr. Kristin Collier as the keynote speaker for the July 24 event.
Incoming students at the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) staged a walkout during the keynote speaker's address at the school's White Coat Ceremony on Sunday. The protest reportedly comes after a petition opposing the selection of Dr. Kristin Collier, who has anti-abortion views, as the keynote speaker for the July 24 event was denied by the school's dean, Dr. Marschall Runge. A video shared by Twitter user @PEScorpiio shows several dozen people—including white coat-wearing students and some parents—getting up from their seats and heading for the auditorium doors as soon as Collier begins her speech. The video has been viewed more than 7.1 million times.
Incoming medical students walk out at University of Michigan’s white coat ceremony as the keynote speaker is openly anti-abortion pic.twitter.com/Is7KmVV811— Scorpiio (@PEScorpiio) July 24, 2022
"Incoming medical students walk out at University of Michigan’s white coat ceremony as the keynote speaker is openly anti-abortion," @PEScorpiio captioned the short clip. According to The Michigan Daily, more than 340 incoming and current University of Michigan medical students and 72 community members—including graduate students, alumni and Michigan Medicine residents and physicians—signed the petition calling on the University to select an alternative speaker for the ceremony. The petitioners pointed out that Collier has shared a number of anti-abortion posts on social media and made comments expressing her opposition to abortion in interviews.
As a retired MD, I salute and congratulate every one of you who followed your conscience and stood up and walked out. The white coat ceremony is today a major landmark. To use this platform to express your respect for medical autonomy is a first step to honoring your commitment.— Tia Will (@medwoman1) July 25, 2022
Collier, an assistant professor of medicine at UMMS, has been quite vocal about her strong anti-abortion beliefs, reports MSN. This includes a May 2022 tweet that reads: "Holding on to a view of feminism where one fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable. I can't not lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy." Collier, who is also the director of the UM Medical School Program on Health Spirituality & Religion, has reportedly even gone as far as to comparer abortion to "oppression."
Over 340 incoming and current University of Michigan medical students have signed a petition opposing the selection of Dr. Kristin Collier as the keynote speaker…— Take A Stand (@RepresentMeAZ) July 24, 2022
Many believed the decision to have Collier as this year's White Coat Ceremony's keynote speaker is a betrayal of the University of Michigan's commitment to stand by abortion rights and continue providing abortion care in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June. "While we support the rights of freedom of speech and religion, an anti-choice speaker as a representative of the University of Michigan undermines the University's position on abortion and supports the non-universal, theology-rooted platform to restrict abortion access, an essential part of medical care," the petition reads. "This is not simply a disagreement on personal opinion; through our demand, we are standing up in solidarity against groups who are trying to take away human rights and restrict medical care."
This afternoon we will officially welcome 168 new MD students at their White Coat Ceremony. Together they will take the White Coat Pledge, which was written by a group of University of Michigan medical students in 2018. Read it here: https://t.co/Gw9NQfVi5S pic.twitter.com/KeSHDn3tpZ— UMich Med Admissions (@UMichMedAdmiss) July 24, 2022
"We demand that [the university] stands in solidarity with us and selects a speaker whose values align with institutional policies, students, and the broader medical community. This speaker should inspire the next generation of healthcare providers to be courageous advocates for patient autonomy and our communities," the petition urged. However, in a statement to reporters, Michigan Medicine spokeswoman Mary Masson claimed Collier was selected by the Gold Humanism Honor Society for her medical qualifications, and that the University will not retract this decision solely based on Collier's views on abortion.
To the incoming medical students of the University Of Michigan Medical School who walked out in support of women’s body autonomy and reproductive rights, you guys are going to be fine, caring, physicians who are in the profession for the right reasons. Respect to you… https://t.co/Pj19cibE4J pic.twitter.com/jwfpSGmOX1— Michael F Ozaki MD (@brontyman) July 25, 2022
"The University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal beliefs," Masson stated. "However, the White Coat Ceremony will not be used as a forum to air personal political or religious beliefs; it will focus on welcoming students into the profession of medicine." An incoming medical student (who prefers to remain anonymous to protect her from potential repercussions from her school) said that the selection of Collier as the keynote speaker at the White Coat Ceremony—a traditional event during which incoming students receive their first white coat, marking their entry into medicine—is particularly upsetting for incoming students.
Why would a medical school invite anti abortion key note speaker? It’s like astronomical society inviting a flat earther. I get it, diverse opinion but that person is against a medical procedure, which is living saving in many instances. Why TF..— BhuSharma (@BhuSharma3) July 25, 2022
"You've got these incoming (medical students) who voted and organized and demonstrated very clearly that they don't want Dr. Collier speaking there," they said. "They don't want this representative of the medical school welcoming them into a medical profession that is supposed to be respecting patient autonomy." Another incoming medical student, who also requested to remain anonymous, noted that the fact that the coalition of incoming students signed this petition even before meeting one another or arriving at the university reflects the importance of this issue to the student body.
Now this is something. Incoming medical students taking a stand for what they believe in.— ampT (@superAMPT) July 25, 2022
This is an appropriate response when confronted with an untenable situation.
Walk out in large numbers. Just walk out.
The adults in the room just left. Civilly and without name calling.
"More than half of matriculants to (medical) school now are assigned female at birth. These are people who are directly affected by her being given a platform," they said. "(Our class is) almost entirely strangers to one another, and yet, we have collectively banded together. More than half of us responded to a survey from someone that we don't even know to say, 'This is a human rights issue and we have a voice in this.'"