Dr. Ernest Lam’s Guest Editorial1 which called for increased diversity in “the leadership of organized dentistry” was both provocative and offensive. As a self-professed watchdog of ethnic statistics in dentistry, he presented some interesting figures to reinforce his views; opinions mostly in question form so as to minimize any suggestion of dogmatism.
As a member of that “bastion of middle-aged white men,” whose hegemony might be retarding the ascension of minorities to positions of power and significance in the profession, I found his article to be totally redundant. Our female members are eminently capable of speaking and fending for themselves, as are those members of the profession he refers to as “visibleminorities”—a phrase suggestive of apartheid rather than the level playing field Canada has become in the 21st century. They too are able to pursue any positions they develop an interest in, voluntarily of course, and on the basis of their own initiative rather than some unjustifiable eligibility or patronizing guidance based on special entitlement.
He states, “I am not a proponent of affirmative action,” but that is precisely what he’s talking about when he calls for further minority representation in the administration of the profession. But to elevate people to positions of power on the basis of ethnicity or gender, rather than capability, does not satisfy the obligation to appoint only the best candidates, so as to maintain the highest standards—a universally accepted principle. I would prefer to describe such action as remedial prejudice:discrimination against one group in order to elevate the prospects of others. But who would oversee such a process? And when would enough be enough? And who would decide?
The JCDA should have included a waiver to disassociate itself from the intent of this offensive article.
- Lam E. Falling short in organized dentistry: a call for increased diversity. J Can Dent Assoc. 2013;79(4):d100.