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Listen, hear, act: challenging medicine’s culture of bad behaviour

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There is no place for humiliation, discrimination or any kind of harassment in medical education

A perfect storm occurs when a situation is exacerbated by a rare combination of events. In recent media reports, there has been a perfect storm of accusations of every kind of abuse levelled against the medical profession by some of its own. Abuse is not new. Few who have experienced medical training can honestly say we have never seen nor been victims of any form of bullying or humiliation throughout that process. But the rare exacerbation early this year was the separate deaths of four junior trainees, apparently by suicide, followed soon after by Dr Gabrielle McMullin’s comments about the sexual harassment of female surgical trainees.1

The tragic deaths of the young doctors triggered my recent article in Croakey;2 but before that there was a long-brewing frustration fuelled by endless stories from students and doctors — of sexual harassment, bullying, teaching by humiliation, discrimination and the trauma of medical education — and by my own experiences of being a woman in medicine.

One reader’s comment in Croakey was particularly confronting.

The saddest part of this story is … deja vu. This has been happening intermittently for decades. A lot of noise is made about it, promises are made,…

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