We do NOT want to cut your beautiful baby boy!

IMG_5505Dear Dr Pate,

I’m a third-year medical student who is strongly considering going into OBGYN. Unfortunately, I’ve been really dismayed to discover how common it is for OBGYN residency programs to require their residents to perform circumcisions. I’ve begun to worry that my moral opposition to circumcision might be incompatible with going into OBGYN. I don’t want to get into a situation where I might be fired if I don’t perform circumcisions because I would rather get fired–and if that’s the case then why go into that field in the first place. I started to google about the topic and your blog was one of the first to come up.

Do you have any advice for a student in my situation? Should I try to seek out OBGYN residency programs that don’t require residents to circumcise? Should I just match into OBGYN and then refuse once I already have the job (can I be fired for that?).


Dear MS3,

Thanks for writing! I find it so refreshing to hear more and more from students, such as yourself, who desire to refrain from performing circumcision. Clearly you are not alone but tradition is deeply engrained in culture and deviation therefrom is considered illogical and threatening. If you are interested in OB/GYN, don’t worry about circumcisions. I wouldn’t even bother mentioning it in your interviews — it falls under the same legal protection as beliefs about abortion.

I encourage you to check out my post — Do medical students have to assist circumcisions? There are links to resources available to you. Hold you head high! Where there is a will there is a way. You don’t have to compromise yourself.

Some will tell you that refraining will limit your career opportunities. It is true that some jobs will try to push you. You can take either approach — put it out there so that potential problems will fall away before you become too invested or discuss it after the fact and assert your rights.

I chose to be proud and loud throughout my process; I stirred controversy and rocked the boat. This did result in expected consequences and more than a few blows to my ego however it was the right path for me. At least one attending physician and another resident refuse to do circumcisions because of my example. And that, for me, made the pain and suffering worth it.

And I have not been pushed aside by all employers as I was warned. One recruiter even told me that I didn’t have a chance landing a job in a major city. I dropped him like a rock. Instead I have joined a phenomenal group practice in a very coveted location just 20 minutes north of Manhattan.

So my advice to you is this: Follow the path that feels right for you and do not fear the obstacles that you will find. Be true to yourself and work hard and your path will continue to unfold before you. Keep your eyes on that path and drop the rocks!

James Pate, MD

6 thoughts on “We do NOT want to cut your beautiful baby boy!”

  1. Thank you for being a sane voice in a nation with medical professionals obsessed with prophylactic circumcision of neonatal boys without medical justification (better described as “a cure seeking a disease”..)
    Thank you for advocating for the rights of minors to genital integrity !


  2. Have a look at this video of Dr. Michelle Storms, who refuses to perform circumcisions, and has also supported residents who are conscientious objectors to circumcision in the MD training program at her hospital in Wisconsin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWpZLhz8Isc

    Nurses have to deal with the same issues of conscientious objection to circumcision in their workplaces and training programs. You can find a page of resources on conscientious objection to circumcision at the webpage of Nurses for the Rights of the Child: http://childrightsnurses.org/index.php/activism/conscientious-objection/

    Thank you for taking an ethical stand against the performance of non-therapeutic infant circumcision. I hope you can continue to influence your colleagues to become informed enough to stand up and say NO, too. Bravo!


  3. In addition to everything you’ve already said, since MS3 feels so strongly against circumcision, then going into OBGYN is absolutely the ideal place for him/her to make a difference by educating expecting parents! We NEED more people like MS3 in OBGYN!


  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is a wonderful article that I’m sharing to the Facebook page I help admin (part of The Intact Network). 🙂


  5. What’s refreshing is knowing there are ethical doctors out there who refuse to perform unnecessary surgeries on non consenting people. Thank YOU, Dr. Pate, for doing what you were called to do–being a healer, not a harmer.


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