Went shopping for a new otolaryngologist this week, found myself looking up everything I could find on ENT doctors in my area. After sorting through what Google had to offer, I identified my #1 choice. Soon after, I heard from my internist’s office with their recommendation (which I had sought 2 weeks earlier), and guess what? Their #1 recommendation was the same doctor!
Got to thinking: what was it about my pick that had stood out, that persuaded me to rate him #1? Reluctantly had to recall that most of the ENT people in my area had similar resumes, and that the only thing about my #1 that had caught my fancy was that he has an Asian name and that part of his education and training occurred in Asia. My next thought: Gee, does that make me a racist or bigot? And then I answered myself: No, I am merely being rational. Here is why:
When I was growing up, the archetypal doctor was the Jewish doctor. Jews were supposed to be good at certain things, one of which was medicine. A Jewish doctor, it went without saying, was a good doctor. Only much later did I realize there was a sad but objectively-verifiable reason for this: for a Jew to become a doctor (or a lawyer, for that matter), he or she had to be really, really good, because higher education in America, beginning at least as early as the 1920s, had adopted a rigorous system of religious quotas in its admissions policies. It is now known for certain that Harvard (among many others) decided, in the 1920s, that it was admitting and graduating too many Jews, and so Harvard and a great many other schools put strict limits on the number of Jews they admitted.
Several decades later, the educational establishment came to terms with what they had done, and they finally abolished the quotas. But the quotas, while they lasted, had had the effect of denying admission to Jews unless they were exceptionally well-qualified – certainly better qualified than many of the non-Jews admitted. Obvious consequence: For more than a generation, if you were a Jew who made it through college and medical school, you were exceptionally good. Practical lesson the country learned: if in doubt, hire a Jewish doctor, and you can be pretty sure you got a good doctor.
Alas, now, decades later, things ostensibly are different. But now that schools are no longer discriminating against Jews, they have simply adopted the catchy rubric of “diversity” and moved on to another target: Asian-Americans. Nowadays, the process is more subtle – not outright quotas, but affirmative-action programs, “race-norming,” admission of the top X% of graduates of any high school in a particular state or other sector, and other devices that effectively resurrect the quota system by inflating the admissions of certain applicants – and thereby limiting the admissions of others. (The schools deny it, but the numbers speak for themselves.) In this updated version of the quota system, it is well-documented that Asian-American applicants are the main victims and African American applicants are the main beneficiaries. So, now that we are so much more enlightened about discrimination, Asian Americans are the new Jews when it comes to evaluating credentials; if you were an Asian American who made it through college and medical school, you were exceptionally good. Practical lesson: if in doubt, hire an Asian doctor, and you can be pretty sure you got a good doctor.
Turns out my instincts had led me in the right direction. By picking the Asian, I had picked the best available doctor.