In training and preparing the nation's future doctors, U.S. medical schools share a vital responsibility. Paramount is the directive that doctors impose on themselves before beginning their practice: "First, do no harm."
But according to a recent report, some of the best medical schools in the country are choosing not to follow this command - and it's a downright blemish on their otherwise good names.
The report, compiled by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco's School of Nursing, states that a number of the best medical schools in the country still hold tobacco stocks as part of their endowment investments. The researchers found that, as of August, at least five of the top dozen medical schools in this year's U.S. News & World Report ranking are housed by universities that seemingly have not divested their tobacco stocks.
Even after weighing the variables and possible mitigating factors involved, these particular holdings still border on the absurd. Yale University, Cornell University and other top-tier medical schools that haven't divested should follow the lead of Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and others that have.
There are cases in which stark practicality overcomes idealism. But this is not one of those cases. To encourage medical schools to divest their tobacco stocks would be to work toward eliminating a clear conflict of interest. Money might be a concern, but the power of the principle at stake here is enough to blow financial worries out of the water.