It’s been 18 days since the Ferguson grand jury decision and 9 days since the NYC grand jury decision. We have all seen the news and protests in cities around the country. Black lives matter.
Yesterday, another group demonstrated their support. Students at 70 medical schools around the country organized a national white coat die in. They lay down for fifteen and a half minutes. Eleven minutes to represent the number of times that Eric Garner said “I can’t breathe” as he was in a choke hold by police in New York City and four and a half minutes to represent the four and a half hours that Michael Brown’s body lay in the street after being shot by a police officer.
Medical students with the support of deans and faculty at prestigious schools such as Harvard, Yale, UCLA and Johns Hopkins said that racial bias is a public health issue. Physicians are trained to do no harm. They are trained to heal. They are trained to save lives. Yes, this is a public health issue.
A statement by Students for a National Health Program, part of Physicians for a National Health Program, in calling for this national white coat die-in:
We as medical students feel that this is an important time for medical institutions to respond to the violence and race-related trauma that affect our communities and the patients we serve.
We feel it is essential to begin a conversation about our role in addressing the explicit and implicit discrimination and racism in our communities and reflect on the systemic biases embedded in our medical education curricula, clinical learning environments, and administrative decision-making. We believe these discussions are needed at academic medical centers nationwide.
Like many of you, I have watched the news these past few weeks and been troubled by these decisions. I have been encouraged that so many peaceful protests have occurred around the country. People saying it’s time for change. Too many lives have been lost. Michael Brown and Eric Garner are the victims we hear about. But there are more. Just two days before the Ferguson verdict, Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy in Cleveland, was brandishing a toy gun without the orange piece that signifies it’s a toy. Someone called 911. A police car responded, pulling into a recreational area and within seconds shot him dead. There are many more stories this disturbing.
In the past few weeks, I have continued to post on the range of topics I typically talk about, carefully staying away from this one. But when medical students around the country organized a die-in to bring attention to the role of medical institutions in addressing violence in our communities, this intersected with my world of health care.
I tell my IT staff that while we don’t touch patients directly, we are still part of the extended care team. The systems and solutions that we provide and support around the clock are depended on by the clinicians in our hospitals and clinics. Our clinicians care for all patients and we are here to support them with technology they can rely on. I am proud to work in an industry where our future physicians are willing to speak out on behalf of everyone in the communities we serve.