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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Don’t act “too gay”, senior GP tells medical students


A senior member of the Royal College of General Practitioners is under investigation after telling medical students that they should act in a less “overtly gay” fashion in order to pass their exams.

According to the Independent, the inquiry was launched following the discovery that Dr Una Coales had written a controversial guide setting out ways in which minority candidates could “neutralise bias” from examiners when trying to pass the Royal College’s Clinical Skills Assessment.
During one passage in the so-called “camp category” of the book, she suggested that gay students speak in deeper voices and change their body language.
“One candidate was facing a 3rd sitting and yet no one had told him that his mannerisms, gait, speech were too overly gay, and that he was sitting an exam administered by a right wing conservative Royal College,” Coales said.
As a result, she advised him to lower and deepen his voice which, she said, was high-pitched, to temper any excessive body movements and walk like a ‘straight’ man.
“He went back to his surgery, practised his speech until his voice was hoarse and modified his body language. Not only did he pass his exam, but he informed me he noticed a huge difference in the way patients interacted with him,” Coales attested.
Under investigation
But she also suggested that Nigerian and Asian students “focus on emphasising the lyrical Scottish or Welsh accent” if sitting exams in these areas.
Female candidates should likewise refrain from wearing floral dresses because “if you dress like a nurse, they [patients] have difficulty believing they are seeing ‘the doctor’.”
In a chapter originally published in a medical magazine in 2009, however, Coales also said that male students would be advised to shave off any facial hair as it could project an “unclean, deceitful” image.
Overweight ones, however, should “project an image of Santa Claus”. To do this, she suggested putting “your hands on top of your protuberant abdomen, with your fingers interlocking but open”.
But the Royal College’s chief executive Neil Hunt last night referred Coales to its board of senior officers for investigation over the matter. “The RCGP does not endorse this book, the author did not write it in her capacity as a member of the RCGP Council, and we reject the advice given,” he said.
The Clinical Skills Assessment was merely one component of the overall exam that all GPs had to pass to enter into practice and reflected “the diversity in general practice and within the college”, he added.
But Coales told the newspaper: “I’m not for a minute suggesting the college is racist or homophobic. These are merely tips to neutralise subjective bias, if any, in 10-minute assessments involving a total of 26 random actors and examiners who have never met the candidate.”

One Response

  1. Glad to be Gay

    I write this as someone with lots of gay friends and a member of Amnesty International, so please don’t misunderstand…

    Seen from the perspective of human psychology and setting aside human rights arguments and so on, the advice is sound enough:  People buy people who reinforce their own stereotypes etc.  So, if the stereotype of senior medical professionals is royal blue stiff upper lip traditional males, anyone going for a job would do well to understand this, even if they then consciously choose to be themselves 100%.  People are very keen to increase their chances of a job and so they must make their own ethical trade off on such issues.

    It does rather sound as if the guide was written slightly tongue in cheek, as a pop at the stereotypes themselves.  Do we know anything on this front?

    Speaking as someone who has acquired a little bit extra protection against the elements over the year, I’m going to try the ‘Santa Claus’ position when I next meet a client with such concerns!

    I’ve attached a picture of the ‘correct uniform’ to be used when applying to be a psychiatrist …


    "Glad to be Gay"

    "Lip up Fatty"

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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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