Fighting racism in medicine is “everyone’s business, not a few”
Centering the Margins, a monthly series from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UMass Chan Medical School, presented a panel on racism in medicine on Wednesday, October 27. The panel included Pang-Yen Fan, MD, professor of medicine; Natalie Anumba, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry; and Yoel Carrasquillo Vega, MARYLAND, assistant professor of medicine.
Marlina Duncan, EdD, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, framed the conversation with confirmation from the Center for Disease Control that racism is a public health crisis.
“Positioning the long-standing problem of racism as a public health crisis is not just a question of semantics,” said Dr Duncan. “This should force organizations like UMass Chan to deal with the crisis in a broad and systemic way.”
Dr Fan said his former role as chair of the United Network for Organ Sharing Minority Affairs Committee has given him a better understanding of this topic.
“The work we did over an eight-year period was to break down the barriers that led to well-documented limited access to transplants for minorities, especially black recipients,” he said.
Dr Anumba said: “Personal experiences of isolation during my career as well as a commitment to asking tough questions out of respect and a belief that we can do a lot of good things and be ethical practitioners have brought me here “.
Last year, as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, he was deployed to Queens Hospital in New York City and witnessed the impact of COVID-19 on black and Latino patients. Vega, is Director of Hospital Medicine at UMass Memorial Health – Marlborough Hospital, as well as Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice Officer.
“Now I am able to make changes and do a good job, why not? Said Vega.
Speaking of how institutional racism plays out in the medical system, Fan observed, “We say we want faculty to reflect the population served, but there are no immediate changes. We need to look at how we select the people we recruit here and see how we can achieve different results. ”
Anumba called on listeners to see how individual, organizational and societal racism all work together to be mutually reinforcing.
Part of fighting racism in medicine is talking about it, the panelists said. They noted the fear of self-examination and according to Anumba, “American ideals of meritocracy make strengthening equality and talking about fairness become dangerous or threatening.”
Panelists highlighted the results of who affected COVID-19 the most and that people of color often do not receive medical attention until they are critically ill as an emergency reason to address this issue.
“The only way to improve this is to act preventively and improve the overall health of marginalized communities,” Fan said.
UMass Chan students have been hailed as the main drivers of community health and preventive measures for the local community. Students serve an extensive network of free clinics in Worcester and the creation of student groups focused on community partnerships is leading to the formation of new relationships between the medical school and the community around it.
“It’s everyone’s job, not a few,” Duncan said.
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