To the Editor:
We acknowledge recent efforts to address the racism that has been ingrained in the fabric of our society. We feel it is important to emphasize that the frustration and pain that the Black community is currently voicing is not something we are only feeling now—this is an outpouring of the emotions that we have felt on a daily basis for generations.
As Black medical students, we must navigate spaces where members of our community are vastly underrepresented, which makes an already difficult journey through medical education far more complicated than it is for students of other racial groups. We have identified several actions that can be taken by the administrations of medical schools and the leaders of health care institutions to contribute toward the fight against racism.
First, hire and promote Black and other underrepresented health care providers. There is a notable lack of diversity among the faculty and staff of many institutions, especially among the leadership.
Second, incorporate antiracism lectures and historical context into the curricula of medical schools. Many of the social determinants of health and advances in medicine that we learn about are a direct result of the systemic oppression and devaluing of Black bodies, and it is important for us all to understand that.
Third, hire experts trained in addressing institutional racism in health care and medical education. Offices and departments dedicated to diversity and inclusion are an essential lifeline for Black students, but sometimes involve the utilization of an institution’s few Black faculty as multipurpose employees tasked with both providing lectures and also being the sole voice of minority students and/or employees.
Finally, create meaningful relationships with surrounding communities. Many medical schools and institutions are located in areas with significant populations of Black people and other underserved groups. Although pipeline programs and student-run community enrichment projects are having a wonderful impact, there is far more that can be done to engage in longitudinal partnerships within the community.
Dismantling systemic racism is an ongoing commitment that will take decades to reverse the centuries of intentional behaviors and attitudes that created the oppression that Black people still experience today. While we appreciate the support that is being offered to the Black community at this time, it is essential that this discussion does not just end with mere words but results in lasting change that will begin to close the gap between Black people and those who have benefited from systemic racism.
Members of the Allied Black Students of the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell (ZSOM) who meet the criteria for authorship, contributed to the original letter sent to the faculty and staff at the ZSOM, but are not named separately below are Joy Achuonjei, Deshaun Allen, Omoyeni Clement, Woodlynn Daniel, Anise Diaz, Clinton Ehidom, Vivian Emengo, Dwayne Gentle, Danielle Howell, Tiana Hudson-Jerman, Alex Martin, Arrianna Mohammed, Britney Nathan, Janay Parrish, Courtney Pina, Philippe Rameau, Will Roberts, Crystal Robinson, Mulugeta Sarbanes, Marcel Souffrant, and Shari Wright. Special thanks also to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the ZSOM: Catherine Bangeranye, PhD, Robert Roswell, MD, and Crystal Mackey, MA, MSEd, whose continued support is much appreciated. Finally, acknowledgments and appreciation to Doreen Olvet, PhD, medical education expert and consultant.