January 31, 2019

Atlas of Men: An Exploration of Identity, Diversity, Science, and Fiction

“Despite the confusion now rampant in the social interrelationships of the species, underlying the social chaos is a matrix of organic order, which is to say, of beauty and truth.”

 

This quote, from William H. Sheldon’s Atlas of Men: A Guide for Somatotyping of the Adult Male at All Ages (1954), appears at the beginning of Dr. David Sklar’s 2018 novel, Atlas of Men, which also served as the title for his presentation to ACGME staff members and guests at the January 23, 2019 Baldwin Seminar Series session. The presentation, the first Baldwin Seminar in which the author read directly from his book, cultivated a deep and engaging discussion on what can be learned from historical biases on excellence in medical education.

 

Dr. Sklar is Editor in Chief for the Academic Medicine journal, Professor Emeritus in Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico, professor at the Arizona State University College of Health Solutions, and author of Atlas of Men. His novel was inspired by his own experience at an elite prep school where, at age 15, he and his fellow male classmates were photographed nude without their consent for a pseudo-scientific somatotyping research study seeking correlations between body type and personality.

 

Dr. Sklar explained how he departed from his usual non-fiction writing and ventured into fiction with Atlas of Men to more deeply explore the complexities of emotions involved in issues such as breaches of trust between the public and medicine, or experiencing the barriers that identity biases create. He read excerpts from his book, highlighting his protagonist’s journey as he attempts to understand, reconcile, and transcend the ways in which past assumptions on his identity and abuse, especially as a student, had shaped his sense of self.

 

Following his reading, Dr. Sklar transitioned, making connections to relevant themes in academic medicine. He questioned how institutions identify candidates for medical education and challenged the value of test scores, and how institutions define and measure excellence. In particularly, he highlighted how class, race, and inequities in access to resources affect how viable candidates appear and how successful they can be.

 

He also drew parallels to current ethical issues in sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation. He explained that there is still much work to be done institutionally and culturally to create healthy and safe educational environments for all learners. However, like the #MeToo movement, he suggested, it is individuals coming forward with their stories that provides permission for others to speak up, sparking a dialogue and creating a community that can ignite the process of change. Dr. Sklar shared his hopes that his story, told through Atlas of Men, can open a dialogue about race, identity, equity, and health.

 

The ACGME’s Baldwin Seminar Series is free and open to all ACGME staff members and the entire GME community. It currently provides continuing professional development for program directors, faculty members, and GME educators. If you were unable to attend this session, video recordings of most Baldwin Seminar presentations are made available through the ACGME’s Learning Management System, Bridge, within weeks of the event. Slide decks from each presentation are also always posted on the Baldwin Seminar Series web page shortly after the event.

 

Interested in attending? The next Baldwin Seminar will take place April 3, 2019 from 9:30-11:00 a.m. Central at the ACGME offices. We are excited to host Kerling Israel, MD, MPH for her discussion on international work in resource-challenged areas. Dr. Israel currently serves as Senior Advisor for Medical Education at Partners in Health (PIH)/Zanmi Lasante (ZL) in Haiti, where she is working toward supporting international accreditation of their residency programs. She has opened HIV/AIDS programs in several hospitals in Haiti and is the founding director of the family medicine residency program at Hospital Saint Nicolas in Saint Marc. Mark your calendars to join us!

 

E-mail cme@acgme.org for more information, to RSVP, or to be added to the invitation mailing list.