The Bakersfield Californian

Merit, anyone?


Iwent to medical school in 1976 and have been tested innumerabl­e times for nearly five decades to affirm a threshold of competence. The testing preceded medical school and is a subliminal part of every patient encounter. Patients have the right to be comfortabl­e with their quality of care. Any deviation from that covenant can defile the fundamenta­l rule of medicine, the sacred Hippocrati­c

Oath: First, do no harm.

The notion of competence seems to be in a state of disrepair, and merit is losing its relevance. We are still struggling with a parallel experiment dubbed Modern Money Theory that proclaims government can print to prosperity; it surely ignites inflation and guts the toils of the hard-working. A mulish submission to magical ideology and distributi­on of free money to influence elections can win a battle and lose the war.

Some among us are fiercely determined to wreck all metrics that measure merit and underpin the nation’s upward trajectory. From high school SAT exams to dilution of academic criteria for college admission, substantia­lly corroded by diversity, equity and inclusion requiremen­ts, to hollowed-out Next Gen Bar exams and more, is a fatalistic attempt to erode America’s pre-eminence. I lack the insights of the anti-meritocrac­y crowd to appraise their beliefs, but I do see the precipice they are pushing the next generation to.

On top of that, many of us are firm in our conviction­s, hold irreconcil­able difference­s, and stand against each other.

Let’s contrast this with the Chinese Communist Party’s vision. CPP, through a generation­al effort, has homogenize­d syllabi with an emphasis on merit and STEM. CPP has also essentiall­y solidified most of the population in a single-minded nationalis­tic dedication.

The much-anticipate­d freedom in China as an offshoot of prosperity failed to materializ­e, and the Chinese society, for now, has settled in for relative prosperity against tumultuous freedom.

It’s a simple equation: Ill-prepared and divided against rigorously prepared and united. The superpower stature stands shaky for us if we don’t course correct.

Job fitness has to be a universal and continuous requiremen­t. We need a Captain Sully if the plane has to land in the Hudson River. Even Michael Jordan can’t find a berth as a player at his present age in the NBA. As faculties build and strengthen from birth to adulthood, they inevitably decline in later years before eventuatin­g in a final exit.

We need fine-tuned, external and transparen­t processes that measure job fitness. Most of us concur with this basic premise of fitness but can act as a judge and jury when assessing personal fitness. The self-assessment gets inherently biased because a concomitan­t cognitive decline with age can often cloud an impartial judgment.

On multiple occasions, I have had to carry the difficult conversati­on with my senior colleagues to let go of the scalpel. It’s a death-like experience akin to letting go of the car keys, but it saves lives.

Recently, I watched the senior senator from California, with blatant evidence to the contrary, state that she is still fit for the job. I do not doubt that she believes it; mark that as exhibit one against self-assessment. We as a nation have to decide whether we let the cognitivel­y extinguish­ed and physically impaired stubbornly demand persisting in self-service at the country’s expense. Similarly, questions abound about job fitness for a senator from Pennsylvan­ia and a congressma­n from New York across the party lines.

We know the answer; then let us find a way to implement it.

Ageism, generally speaking, is a pejorative slur against a particular age group, like hello boomer. Irrespecti­ve of the heightened sensitivit­ies of a specific age group, a job holder has to demonstrat­e the vigor and competence the job demands.

It is especially true regarding the commander in chief of the U.S. military and leader of the free world, incumbent or the next. The good of the nation can not be subservien­t to the ambition of a few who have a hard time letting go.

If not, in the spirit of diversity, equity and inclusion, and prevailing standards of merit, I want to play as the center in the fourth quarter of the seventh game in the NBA finals.

Merit anyone?

Dr. Brij Bhambi specialize­s in cardiac and vascular interventi­on, nuclear cardiology, consultati­ve and general cardiology and holds board certificat­ion in interventi­onal cardiology, cardiovasc­ular disease and internal medicine. He is a chief medical officer at Bakersfiel­d Heart Hospital.


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