Criticism of Wake Forest medical student is excessive

Kychelle Del Rosario has faced undue criticism, while the bigotry of her patient has been largely ignored


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Wake Forest medical student Kychelle Del Rosario has been placed on leave after posting a tweet on March 29 about a patient who criticized her pronoun pin.

Sophie Guymon, Opinion Editor

 Wake Forest medical student Kychelle Del Rosario is coming under fire — particularly from right-wing news outlets — over a now-deleted tweet. 

“I had a patient I was doing a blood draw on see my pronoun pin and loudly laugh to the staff, ‘She/Her? Well, of course it is. What other pronouns even are there? It?’ I missed his vein so he had to get stuck twice,” Del Rosario tweeted on Tuesday, March 29. 

Twitter users were quick to condemn Rosario for purportedly violating the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm and “assaulting” a patient over “[differences] in political beliefs”, while failing to offer any substantive or nuanced criticism of the bigotry expressed by her patient. 

The crux of the issue at hand is not the conduct of Del Rosario, but the bigotry expressed by her patient. In response to this backlash, Ewen Liu — also a Wake Med student — came to Del Rosario’s defense. 

“[I] heard this story firsthand weeks ago and [it] seems like [people] are misinterpreting (understandably from the phrasing). To clarify, the missed stick was COMPLETELY an accident and just seemed ‘karma-tic’. She is kind and professional and would never harm anyone intentionally,” Liu tweeted. 

Liu’s tweet has also since been deleted. 

The Wake Forest School of Medicine released a statement to the media on Wednesday, March 30. 

“The actions described in this student’s social media post do not in any way reflect the quality of care and compassion that Wake Forest University School of Medicine strives to provide to our patients each and every day,” the statement read. 

“We stand behind our values that include trust, excellence and a space where all belong, and we actively reinforce those values with learners and providers. While federal law does not permit us to share specific information, we are taking the proper measures to address this matter with the student, school leadership is involved.” 

A review of the incident described in Del Rosario’s tweet revealed that all procedures were followed while caring for this patient. The School of Medicine’s protocols require documentation of all student actions while treating a patient. If a student has an initial unsuccessful blood draw, the student should not make additional attempts, but have a separate certified medical professional perform the second attempt. 

The documentation of this incident verified that after Del Rosario was unsuccessful in obtaining the blood draw, she appropriately deferred a second attempt to a certified professional. 

Respecting and validating someone’s pronouns and gender identity should not be a matter of political belief or ideology, but one of simple human decency.

Del Rosario has also apologized for her tweet. 

“I am writing this as an apology for a very irresponsible tweet that I sent on Twitter that I highly regret. For the event mentioned in the tweet, I was performing a blood draw on a patient, and during our conversation they had shown dismay at my pronoun pin. I calmly shared my thoughts about pronouns and did not escalate the situation further. When I was doing the blood draw, I missed the first time due to my inexperience as a student, and per our policy, my supervisor performed the successful blood draw the second time.” 

Del Rosario continued: “During this encounter, I never intended to harm the patient. I understand how my misguided tweet read that I did intend to harm them as retribution. In an emotional moment, I sent the tweet without thinking about the consequences. I am truly sorry for poorly representing our school and our health system. I will reflect on responsible social media use as a professional and my duty to care for all patients, regardless of any differences in beliefs.” 

Nonetheless, Del Rosario has been placed on a leave of absence “as a result of [her] inappropriate and misleading post,” per Paula Faria, the associate vice president at Wake Forest Baptist Health.

While Del Rosario’s tweet was unprofessional, the criticism that has been directed toward her is disproportionate. As the School of Medicine’s review revealed, she followed protocol and certainly did not attack her patient. Missing a patient’s vein is a common occurrence when drawing blood, and is unlikely to cause harm. 

A prior review of the incident revealed that Del Rosario followed procedure. Alleging that she attacked her patient simply because she disagreed with a remark they made and chose to tweet about it is an unwarranted logical fallacy. Accusing Del Rosario of medical malpractice without evidence minimizes real incidents of malpractice, a serious issue that disproportionately affects marginalized groups. 

Data from the Center for American Progress shows that LGBTQ+ people frequently avoid healthcare because they experience discrimination in these settings. Eight percent of lesbian, bisexual and queer respondents said that a doctor or other healthcare provider refused to see them because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, while 29% of trans respondents reported that a provider refused to see them because of their actual or perceived gender identity. Respondents also reported the use of harsh or abusive language from these providers, being misgendered and experiencing unwanted physical contact. 

Respecting and validating someone’s pronouns and gender identity should not be a matter of political belief or ideology, but one of simple human decency. Everyone has pronouns, regardless of whether or not their gender identity aligns with their biological sex. When cisgender people display their pronouns on social media or wear pronoun pins, it helps foster a safe and accepting space for their trans peers. These acts of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community should not be mocked — when people shrug off this mockery as a lighthearted joke, they are enforcing cis-normativity and transphobia, encouraging discrimination not just in healthcare, but in other spaces as well. 

It is appalling that the vast majority of the media coverage surrounding Del Rosario’s tweet is critiquing her lack of professionalism rather than her patient’s display of bigotry. She has been placed on leave over a poorly-worded tweet, but there has been no known follow-up with the patient concerning the problematic nature of their comments, or even any documentation of their inappropriate behavior. 

If the School of Medicine is truly “a space where all belong,” as they expressed in their statement condemning Del Rosario’s tweet, they should not ignore expressions of bigotry, but combat them by seeking to educate their patients and practitioners on the importance of pronouns and respecting others’ identities.