Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd.
We speak their names out when they no longer can.
As a medical student, I have learned and recognized the many prejudices underlying our healthcare system against persons of color. Racism runs rampant in hospitals and clinics – places that are meant to heal, not to hurt. Black patients, in particular, suffer biases that result in disparities and even outcomes in their health. Racial bias affects African-American students even before they enter medical school. We need more anti-racism training in the curricula.
I write to express solidarity and support of my black classmates and friends. I, along with so many others, grieve for the families of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and the many people whose names we do not know. What grieves me even more is that the events that have occurred these past few days are unfortunately not new. Black lives have long been suffering at the hands of police brutality and structural violence. What haunts me are the words from a classmate: the next hashtag might not be so removed from our community.
George Floyd cried out, “I can’t breathe.” When a patient cries out, “I can’t breathe,” people run into action. It’s an alarming phrase. It’s a medical emergency. A human being cannot go without a few minutes without oxygen. The ABC protocol (Airway, Breathing, Circulation) is launched. Healthcare providers hurry to assess and try to save the patient. It angers and grieves me that the basic human necessity for air, for oxygen, was denied to him. He was robbed of breath. And so, we cry out on behalf of George Floyd.
We recognize our own faults within the medical community. Though we strive to ensure that the culture within medical schools and clinical settings are inclusive, we recognize that medical education and training at large have historically or presently participated in acts of injustice. We look to continually change and be renewed so that schools, residencies, hospitals, and all clinical settings become places of diversity, inclusivity, and healing.
As physicians in training, we vow to work on dismantling discriminatory practices and opposing racist policies within our institutions. We strive to tear down our own inherent biases, to educate ourselves and take action. I want to learn how to be an effective ally.
The weeds that stem from institutions need to be eradicated; change must be upstream. The generational pain and cycle of violence need to be broken. Sadly, it will not happen overnight. But I hope to use whatever voice I have to speak out and speak up right now.
Anna Delamerced is a medical student.
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