"Freddie Gray. Walter Scott. Eric Harris. Samuel DuBose. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Michael Brown."
Brian Williams, M.D., F.A.C.S., stood alone on the stage at the OHSU Auditorium, reading some of the names of African-Americans who have been shot by police in the past few years.
“You may not recognize all of those names,” said Williams, “but I'm certain you recognize at least one and understand their significance. People will debate the value of their lives. They will debate the justification of their killings. But one thing is without debate -- every one of them meant something to someone.”
Williams, an associate professor of surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center and trauma surgeon at Parkland Memorial Hospital, spoke to faculty and staff as part of OHSU’s growing discussion about the intersection of race and medicine.
As an African-American, Williams is in a particularly unique position to share insights on the topic. He says he has both cared for and feared the police.
He was also the sole trauma surgeon on duty this past July 7 when police officers were targeted by an African American sniper following a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas. Seven of those injured officers were brought into Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Three of them died of their wounds.
"That night changed my life. And now I'm on a mission to change yours."
Williams went on to share stories of racism he has personally experienced, as well as the impact that caring for the slain police officers had on his life.
He encouraged members of the crowd to confront their fears and discomfort about race, and to speak up when they witness social injustice.
"The root of all of this is that there is a lack of open and honest discussions about racism in this country," Williams said.
"It is not enough to be a good person if you are silent in the face of social injustice."
In addition to giving three lectures at OHSU, Williams also met with advisory board members of the OHSU Stand Together campaign, which aims to address race-based disparities and gun violence as a public health issue.
As part of the Stand Together mission, the first in a series of community forums will be held on Jan. 25, designed to promote conversations to address gun violence as a public health issue.
(Click here to read more about Dr. Williams’ lectures.)