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Medical students create video to focus on racism in health care

'As a medical community, we must speak out and break the stronghold of racial injustices'
health care providers, most wearing white coats, kneel on one knee with fists raised in air, heads down
Dr. Lauren Simpson raises her fist as she gathers with OHSU staff and community at Elizabeth Caruthers Park in June. "Whether you choose to sit, stand or kneel is up to you but making known our collective desire to end racism is the goal," said organizers. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Tony McDade. For some of us, the growing list of names are a constant reminder of racism’s stronghold in our society.

For others, COVID-19 has forced us to pay attention to the issues of police brutality and structural racism, as we no longer have the daily distractions that allow us to turn a blind eye. Watching the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were emotionally and psychologically traumatizing.

As future health care professionals, we are asked to heal our communities and make the health and well-being of our patients our first consideration. We must hold true to these words. Police brutality is not the only thing that kills thousands of Black Americans. Health care is not immune.

The medical community largely avoids talking about how systemic racism affects our Black and brown patients individually. We are more comfortable talking about the social determinants of health for marginalized people, collectively, rather than discussing how we play a role in disenfranchising the patients under our care. Often, we task the few minority trainees and providers to address and fix these key societal issues while the majority takes a backseat.

Our Black Lives Matter video serves as a call to action for all. We have the privilege, platform and a duty to speak up for those whose voices continuously fall on deaf ears. As a medical community, we must speak out and break the stronghold of racial injustices that continue to plague our country.

We must first acknowledge that systemic racism exists within health care. We must then systematically dismantle policies that continue to perpetuate these systems. We challenge health care institutions across our home state of Oregon and nationwide to stand with us.

Daniel Tshala is completing his first year of medical school in the OHSU School of Medicine.

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