- A paper in the Journal of Vascular Surgery has come under fire for suggesting it is unprofessional for health workers to post swimwear photos and photos with alcohol to social media.
- The study—which was conducted by three men using fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—has been criticized as “sexist.” Some have also even equated the methods to cyberstalking.
- The authors of the study later asked for their own paper to be retracted amid backlash, and the journal has since issued that retraction.
- Even after it was retracted, many argued that on top of the sexism, people should also take issue with the fact that the study listed discussing topics like abortion and gun control as unprofessional.
Journal Study Follows Health Professionals’ Posts
It’s no secret that many people worry about how their social media accounts may affect their job, but now, many health professionals are challenging those norms after a controversial study suggested that posting photos in a bikini is unprofessional.
That study—“Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among young vascular surgeons”—targeted 480 surgeons and found social media accounts for 235 of them. Researchers with the study then tracked the posts of those doctors in an attempt to find “either clearly unprofessional or potentially unprofessional content.”
In all, researchers said they found at least potentially unprofessional content in around a quarter of those 235 accounts.
But what researchers constituted as unprofessional ranged widely. For example, “offensive comments about colleagues/work/patients” or posts where the surgeons appeared to be drunk were deemed clearly unprofessional.
However, much more controversially, the researchers also included the display of any form of alcohol—even if just a glass of wine at a restaurant—in the potentially unprofessional category. They also included “inappropriate attire,” such as “pictures in underwear, provocative Halloween costumes, and provocative posing in bikinis/swimwear.”
The study was originally conducted in January and February 2018. It was then published online in December 2019, but it largely flew under the radar until it was published in the journal’s August 2020 edition.
According to the authors, the goal of this paper was to: “evaluate the extent of unprofessional social media content among recent vascular surgery fellows and residents.”
That’s because “it has been demonstrated that publicly available social media content may affect patient choice of physician, hospital, and medical facility.”
To conduct the study, three “screeners” created fake accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to track the surgeons. Notably, all three screeners were men, ranging from ages 28 to 37.
In its conclusion, the study warns that “young surgeons should be aware of the permanent public exposure of unprofessional content that can be accessed by peers, patients, and current/future employers.”
It also notes that neither men nor women were more likely to post unprofessional content.
Outrage From Medical Professionals
The study has received near-universal backlash from health professionals online, with many reiterating that the targeted accounts were all viewed by men using fake accounts of their own.
“They are shaming our women physician colleagues for wearing bikinis,” Mudit Chowdhary, a radiation oncology chief resident physician, said on Twitter.
Alongside that, many health professionals accused the study of employing cyberstalking tactics in its methods.
Most notably, many female medical professionals responded by using #MedBikini on social media, where they posted so-called “unprofessional” photos of themselves in bikinis.
“I am a woman in medicine who loves to travel to tropical locations and dress accordingly. I will not wear my white coat and scrubs to Hawaii,” one third year medical student said on Twitter. “This does not make me unprofessional or less intelligent or compassionate compared to my male colleagues.”
Many others also took a moment to criticize the notion that posting a photo next to or holding a glass of alcohol is unprofessional.
“Here I am from a social media post last summer… being inappropriate & enjoying my sangria,” Pediatric Pain Psychologist Christine Sieberg said.
Authors Ask to Retract Study
The backlash was so strong that by Friday, the authors of the study called for their own paper to be retracted.
“Our intent was to empower surgeons to be aware and then personally decide what may be easily available for patients and colleagues to see about us,” One of the authors, Thomas Cheng, said in an apology on Twitter.
“However, this was not the result. We realize that the definition of professionalism is rapidly changing in medicine and that we need to support trainees and surgeons as our society changes.”
“Also, we realize that our design had significant gender bias, particularly with men assessing the appropriateness of women’s clothing.”
“We were wrong not to have considered the inherent gender bias and have certainly learned from this experience. We will do better in the future and teach others from our experience.”
However, we were wrong not to have considered the inherent gender bias and have certainly learned from this experience. We will do better in the future and teach others from our experience.— Thomas Cheng (@twtcheng) July 24, 2020
A spokesperson for the Boston Medical Center—where six of the seven authors have ties—also called the paper “ill-conceived” and “poorly executed,” saying it “reinforces biases about professionalism and gender.”
Following that, the journal issued a statement retracting the article and apologizing for unconscious bias.
Criticism Against Paper’s View on Political Issues
Even after the study was retracted, some health professionals expressed additional concern. That’s because while the focus on sexism was the main narrative of the outrage, they worried that another controversial line in the article was being glossed over.
Specifically, the authors of the study flagged politically-charged issues such as abortion and gun control as being potentially unprofessional topics, labelling them “controversial social comments.”
“While people were rightfully incensed about the sexism inherent in saying posing in swimwear and provocative clothing was unprofessional,” medical student Stephanie Quainoo said, “little attention was paid to the fact that metrics included under potentially unprofessional behavior included: controversial political comments, controversial social topics and controversial religious comments.”
“Professionalism is often used to police the speech of trainees and professionals, to quiet dissenting opinions, and protect the images of institutions when they are called out for wrongdoing,” she added.
The recent article in the Journal of Vascular Surgery opened the floor for conversations about what it means to be unprofessional in medicine. And while people were rightfully incensed about the sexism inherent in saying posing in swimwear and provocative clothing was— Stephanie Quainoo (@stephquainoo) July 26, 2020
Some have also made sure to note that both gun control and abortion are healthcare issues.
Agree focus on bikinis wasn’t best way to resist, but article didn’t just call out bathing suits. #BLM likely fell under the “controversial” political or social comments, and doctors speaking out re: abortion & gun control (which are both healthcare issues) were called out, too. pic.twitter.com/ExxUUtIEBN— Naomi Wagner (@Naomi_CGC) July 26, 2020
See what others are saying: (The Boston Globe) (CNN) (Daily Dot)
Viral Photo of Crowded Reopened Georgia High School Sparks Concerns
- A viral photo showing students at North Paulding High School in Georgia walking in a crowded hallway without masks has sparked widespread concerns about schools reopening safely.
- According to BuzzFeed News, there is at least one football player that has tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as several staff members.
- Students who choose to not go to school can be suspended or expelled. Additionally, students who share content criticizing the school can be punished as well, and two have already been suspended for sharing photos of crowded halls, according to BuzzFeed.
- This school is just one of many in Georgia making headlines for seeing positive COVID-19 cases. In Cherokee County, there are four schools with confirmed cases that have forced dozens of students to quarantine within their first week back.
Viral Photo in North Paulding High School
When North Paulding High School in Georgia opened back up on Monday, kids were crammed in the hallway between classes, shoulder to shoulder, many without masks.
A photo that captured one of these crowded halls quickly went viral, prompting widespread outrage as it highlighted just one of several concerns many have about schools reopening throughout the state.
Paulding County Schools Superintendent Brian Otott addressed the photo in a letter early this week, claiming that it lacked larger context. Masks are not mandatory at North Paulding, as the school district said that the choice to wear a mask is a personal one, and claim enforcing a mandate is not realistic. Otott also said that students are not passing one another in the hallway to transmit COVID-19.
Health experts, however, do not believe this is true. With such close proximity and a lack of masks, transmission in situations like this is still possible. The school’s first day also comes as both new cases and deaths in the state of Georgia are in their peak. So far, the state has had a total of 186,395 cases and 3,899 deaths.
If that photo did not spark enough concerns, there is also already at least one confirmed coronavirus case on North Paulding’s football team. According to BuzzFeed News, footballers at the school are not the only ones at risk.
Teachers told the outlet that there are positive cases among the staff, including an employee who came into contact with most teachers while they were symptomatic. Still, the school will not confirm cases among employees for privacy reasons.
“That was exactly one week ago, so we are all waiting to see who gets sick next week,” one teacher told BuzzFeed.
Most who are nervous about attending school are left with essentially no other option than to face their fears and risk infection. Virtual learning was an option for students at North Paulding, but the limited slots filled up quickly. On top of this, BuzzFeed News learned from a set of parents who wanted to keep their son home upon seeing the photo, that any student who chooses to not attend school could face suspension or expulsion.
On top of this, the school made an announcement warning students that anyone who shared negative content about the school online would face disciplinary action. According to BuzzFeed News, two students have already been suspended for sharing now-viral photos of crowded halls.
North Paulding is not the only school in the state making headlines. In Cherokee County, a second grader tested positive for the virus on the first day of school. Now, their class of 20 students will be quarantining for 14 days.
On Wednesday, officials announced that three additional schools in the county had positive cases. Those cases involved a first grader, eighth grader, and Kindergarten teacher. Several students and staff at each of these schools now must undergo a two week quarantine as well.
Statewide, school officials are concerned about what the school year will look like.
“So long as COVID-19 runs rampant, there will be too many bodies in close quarters for us to co-exist in a traditional setting,” Dooly County Schools Superintendent Craig Lockhart telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are not ready to return to in-person schooling and be highly confident that we can protect employees and students.”
But on the other side of this, there are parents and students eager to get back to in person classes, either because they trust their school district to handle things well, or because online learning at home just was not working well for them.
“There is a really strong case for trying to reopen schools because there are so many benefits, both for children, not only academic benefits but health and social-emotional health, and also for families, many of whom are trying to get back to work to restart the economy,” Charlene Wong, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Duke School of Medicine also told the AJC.
Can Kids Spread the Virus?
Still, Wong believes that safety opening schools is complex and requires a multitude of safety measures. The risk is especially high because experts are still in the early stages of learning what role children play in spreading and getting this virus, especially in a crowded space like a school. Currently, most studies and research have not focused on children, so there is not enough data to prove anything just yet, despite the widespread belief that children are less likely to get and transmit the virus.
In fact, one case out of Georgia proves that idea wrong. One summer camp in Georgia was forced to close after there were 260 coronavirus cases on site, the majority of which came from people aged 17 and younger.
Another study done in South Korea concluded that while children nine and under do not transmit the virus as frequently as adults, the risk of them doing so still exists. That study also claims that people between the ages 10 and 19 actually spread COVID-19 at the same rate as adults.
See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (Washington Post)
NJ Woman Charged for Assaulting Staples Customer Who Asked Her to Correctly Wear a Mask
- New Jersey Police have charged 25-year-old Terri Thomas with second-degree aggravated assault for violently tossing a woman with a cane to the ground at a Staples store last Wednesday.
- Thomas attacked 54-year-old Margot Kagan for telling her to wear her face mask properly.
- Kagan, who police say had a liver transplant four months ago, was hospitalized and is recovering from a leg injury that required surgery as a result of the incident.
Police in New Jersey said Tuesday that they arrested and charged a woman caught on surveillance video attacking a fellow Staples customer who told her to correctly wear her mask.
The dispute happened inside a Hackensack Staples store last Wednesday when 54-year-old Margot Kagan was using the copy machine. Kagan, who police said had a liver transplant four months ago, noticed 25-year-old Terri Thomas walk by with her mask below her mouth.
Kagan told a local news station that she told Thomas, “You should really put a mask on,” and warned her that she was endangering everyone. However, the remarks made Thomas angry she reportedly began yelling.
The surveillance footage shows Thomas walking towards Kagan, who lifts her cane to keep Thomas away. Thomas then reaches for the cane and violently tosses Kagan to the ground.
Thomas walks out of view for a few seconds and when she returns, Kagan sticks her leg out to trip Thomas, but Thomas ultimately walks away unharmed and leaves the store.
Injuries and Charges
Kagan was hospitalized after the attack and police said she left with a fractured left tibia that required surgery. However, Kagan later told ABC 7 she suffered a broken knee and required a steel plate to be put in. She also claims she’s been told by doctors that she won’t be able to put weight on her leg for seven to 10 weeks.
As far as Thomas, police have charged her with second-degree aggravated assault and she was released on a summons pending a court appearance on August 24. In New Jersey, the charge is punishable by 5-10 years in jail, and fines as high as $150,000.
Hackensack police are encouraging anyone who witnessed the crime or have any information to reach out to them.
Aurora Police Apologize for Drawing Weapons on Black Family in Mistaken Stop
- Police drew guns on a Black family in Aurora, Colorado on Sunday who they believed were in a stolen vehicle, ordering the group out of the car and facedown down on the ground.
- The passengers were girls between the ages of 6 and 17 and video shows them sobbing in fear during the incident, with at least two minors in handcuffs.
- The adult female driver was able to confirm that the car was not stolen and police explained that the car had the same plate information as a car reported stolen in a different state. They also blamed the mixup on the fact that the family’s car was reported stolen earlier this year, even though Aurora police returned it back to them a day later.
- The city’s new police chief apologized and offered them therapy resources. She also said officers followed protocol but should be allowed to use discretion to deviate in situations like this and has ordered her team to look at new training practices.
Police in Aurora, Colorado apologized Monday for drawing weapons on a Black family after mistaking their car for another stolen vehicle.
On Sunday, August 2, Brittney Gilliam decided to take her 6-year-old daughter, 12-year-old sister, and 14 and 17-year-old nieces out to get their nails done. Gilliam told CNN that her niece had just gotten back in the car after looking to see if the nail salon they wanted to go to was open. At this point, she and the girls were parked in a parking lot with the car turned off.
That’s when Aurora police pulled up behind the vehicle with guns drawn. Then, police allegedly yelled at the group to put their hands out of the window and get out of the car.
She said the family exited the vehicle and were told to lay face down on the ground. At that time, police handcuffed Gilliam, her 12-year-old sister, and 17-year-old niece. Gilliam claims that police would not explain why she was pulled over until she was handcuffed. Then, they pulled her away to verify her claim that the car was not stolen as the children remained on the ground.
A bystander named Jennifer Wurtz began recorded the incident after the family was handcuffed. The footage is about 12 and a half minutes long, but a shorter minute in a half-second clip went viral on Twitter. That clip shows the minors facedown on the floor sobbing as police try to keep onlookers away.
Eventually, police sit the children up and in the longer video, Wurtz can be heard pressing the officers about why they had drawn guns on children.
Police repeatedly asked her to stop interfering, however, they did say she had the right to film. Wurtz stopped pointing the phone towards the scene, but continued to criticize the stop and asked for the officers’ names.
As frustration from onlookers grew, one officer explained that this was a “high-risk stop” and that police were following procedure.
The onlookers were still angry about the policy being used against children and became angrier after learning that the car was in fact, not stolen.
What Caused the Confusion?
As far as what the mixup actually was, Gilliam explained that she had reported her car stolen in February, but that case was cleared up. In fact, her attorney told CNN that when her vehicle was stolen, it was actually returned to her the next day by Aurora police.
In a statement late Monday, Intern Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said that after the stop, police realized the car Gilliam was driving was not stolen. Instead, another vehicle with the same plate information but from a different state had been. The Associated Press reported that the vehicle was a motorcycle from Montana.
In her statement, Wilson said “The confusion may have been due, in part, to the fact that the stopped car was reported stolen. After realizing the mistake, officers immediately unhandcuffed everyone involved, explained what happened and apologized.”
“I have called (Gilliam’s) family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday’s events,” she continued. “I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover.”
Outrage and Apology
Still, that did little to put the community at ease, especially since the incident comes amid widespread frustration over how Black people are treated by police. Frustrations are especially high in Aurora, where police have faced security for the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. McClain was an unarmed Black man who was stopped by officers as he walked home after he was reported as a suspicious person in a ski mask.
During the confrontation, officers placed him in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with ketamine to sedate him. He then suffered a heart attack in the ambulance and was declared brain dead days later before being taken off life support.
Just last month, two officers were fired for reenacting the chokehold in a photo near the memorial site for Elijah McClain A third officer was fired for not alerting supervisors about the photo while a fourth resigned before a disciplinary hearing about the incident.
So this latest incident piled on the existing outrage against the local department and police policies in general. And many, including Gilliam, felt that the stolen car mixup did not justify how the young girls were treated.
“That’s police brutality,” she told KUSA. “There’s no excuse why you didn’t handle it a different type of way. … You could have even told them, ‘Step off to the side let me ask your mom or your auntie a few questions so we can get this cleared up.’ ”
In her statement, Chief Wilson confirmed that a suspect in a stolen vehicle is a high-risk stop, and said officers followed procedures they are trained to carry out. However, she added that the department, “must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves.”
Wilson added that an internal investigation into this incident has been opened and said she had directed her team to look at new practices and training. Her promises to reexamine department practices are especially significant because that same Monday night, Aurora’s city council voted to make Wilson the city’s permanent police chief.