By Wendy Sarubbi | June 3, 2020 3:37 pm

As healthcare providers, our mission is to care for others. Life is precious to us. As our nation faces a pandemic and now racial violence, our profession must be an active part of the solution.

In our profession, we are called to put the needs of others ahead of our own. And in the midst of this national anguish, that servant leadership must extend beyond our clinics and hospitals. As educators, researchers and physicians, we need to speak out against the institutional racism that makes any one of us less than another. We must stand together in solidarity and demand that the kinds of actions that led to the killing of George Floyd and others at the hands of police must end. We must commit to listening and learning from those who experience systemic racism and be equally committed to looking inward and asking ourselves the tough questions about our values, beliefs and biases.

At the UCF College of Medicine, “The Good Doctor” is our tradition for the first day of medical school. When students define the qualities of the physician they wish to become, their first words often include empathetic, compassionate, caring and a good listener. During this troubled time, I suggest we add courage to the list.

It takes courage to speak up for those whose voices are not heard. It’s easier to let someone else take the lead and start the frank and difficult conversations about racism, stereotypes and the abuse of power. But sitting back as our communities suffer is more than unacceptable. It’s cowardice.

This pandemic shows in clear detail what we in healthcare see every day: That healthcare inequities plague our country, that your zip code is a major factor in determining your health.  Poverty, crime, food deserts, inadequate transportation and lack of affordable, accessible healthcare make some of us much more likely to be victims of all disease, including COVID-19. We must have the courage to insist that health and life be protected for all.

As physicians, nurses, social workers and therapists, we care for every patient – whatever their race, gender, creed, religious beliefs or sexual preference. That is the bedrock of our training. But we cannot ignore the stark fact that inequity and injustice threaten the lives of people across this country every day. As providers dedicated to physical, mental and spiritual health, we cannot ignore the suffering that surrounds us. We must acknowledge the pain that institutional racism is causing. And we must show by our actions that Black Lives Matter. We cannot leave this important work to someone else. It belongs to us all. We must be the change we wish to see in the world because, as Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

I would ask each and every one of you to engage in this conversation. Have open discussions at team meetings. Listen to each other. It is easy to avoid the conversation and it takes courage to listen, learn and speak. Only when we are all part of the conversation can we make progress. Ultimately, it takes all of us.

This work isn’t easy. It won’t happen overnight. But the work must begin. And we as healthcare providers we have an important role in this effort. Our Hippocratic Oath says, “Primum non nocere — First, do no harm.” We must inspire others with our values and address the harm that racism continues to inflict. Only then can we truly call ourselves healers.

Deborah C. German, M.D.
Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, College of Medicine

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