by Harun Thimmiah, MD, MS at University of Massachusetts Medical School and David Chiang, MD, PhD at University of Massachusetts Medical School
Recent events have highlighted a systemic problem within our world, our country, our state, and our community. People of color fight an uphill battle in every facet of life, at every socioeconomic level. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception — as we all know by now, patients from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately afflicted. But the spotlight has refocused on a chronic pandemic: systemic racism. Aside from the recent wave of Asian xenophobia, excessive force has inflicted pain and horror upon George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, countless others, their families, and their communities. We stand with these Black lives, those lives who came before, and sadly, those lives that will likely be taken after.
Other physicians have recognized this inequity across the nation: internal medicine and pediatrics groups have condemned racial discrimination or called to dismantle racism and its negative health impacts.
We are resident physicians at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in a combined internal medicine-pediatrics residency, and we will no longer stay silent.
We call on all residents and residency programs to voice their condemnation of racism and to support their communities. As our own UMass President Marty Meehan wrote, using the words of Emerson College’s President Lee Pelton: “What are you going to do?”
Every year, medical school matriculants and graduates, together with their physician mentors, recite a variation of the Physician’s Oath during a white coat or graduation ceremony.
We reaffirm this oath today, and we add the following:
We vow to treat all patients with compassion and respect regardless of the color of their skin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
We vow to be cognizant of implicit and explicit biases in ourselves and others, to work towards an understanding of that bias, and to correct that behavior.
We vow to be In Solidarity and join our colleagues who decry injustice.
We vow to offer more than thoughts and prayers. We vow to fight racism in medicine.
We vow to battle against hatred and hypocrisy as part of our duty as physicians.
We reaffirm our oath today and every day. We invite you to do the same.
Authors’ note: What can you do? Start here to learn about anti-racism. Start reading and start supporting anti-racism. We chose to financially support the NAACP’s legal defense fund as a part of this commitment. Let’s have the difficult conversations, ask the hard questions, and be a part of the solution. Our work has just begun.
Image credit: Image is from UMass WC4BL Demonstration and taken by Dr. Paulo Martins MD, PhD. Used with permission.