This is a time when we need to affirm our values and stand up to injustice.
June 2, 2020
The nation is grieving angrily over the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. These acts anger and sadden us because they underscore the continued inequities in our communities. But they also obligate us to look inward for an honest assessment of how such horrors can occur, repeatedly, in a nation that prides itself on justice and equality.
As a school of medicine, we care about how longstanding racial inequities have permeated each facet of our lives, creating situations in which black and brown people continue to be victims of violence. Grief over the loss, anger over the violence perpetrated decade after decade find their expression in both peaceful and agitated public protest.
Our commitment is to encourage a safe and equitable learning environment that supports understanding of the impact of discrimination on health and well-being. This will require attention to our relationships with each other, offering support by way of counseling, when necessary, and active engagement throughout the curriculum and partnerships with our communities to ensure that we not only support a safe environment but work towards its improvement.
Our mission statement calls on us to “serve society” in a manner that is equitable and inclusive. This is not possible if we pre-judge people or close our hearts to those whose experiences are different from ours. Serving our community means not only serving those who are just like us; it means serving, and caring for, all of our neighbors. It means confronting racism and injustice in others and in ourselves.
At Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine we hold diversity as a core value. We have created leadership roles for diversity and inclusion. But respect cannot be directed from above. It must be practiced and lived by all of us, with each other. Colleagues and students experience it, and we must support them. We do this with our expressions and our actions. The institution does this with mechanisms of support.
I urge our community to review the American Association of Medical College’s statement regarding the proper role of anchor institutions like ours. We affirm these aims:
- We must acknowledge and speak out against all forms of racism, discrimination, and bias in our environments in our institutions, communities, and society.
- We must stand in solidarity with the black community and speak out against unjust and inhumane incidents of violence.
- We must demonstrate empathy and compassion and acknowledge the pain and grief that the families and the communities of these victims are experiencing.
- We must take the lead in educating ourselves and others to address these issues head-on.
- We must be deliberate and partner with local communities, public health agencies, and municipal governments to dismantle structural racism and end police brutality.
- We must employ anti-racist and unconscious bias training and engage in interracial dialogues that will dispel the misrepresentations that dehumanize our black community members and other marginalized groups.
- We must move from rhetoric to action to eliminate the inequities in our care, research, and education of tomorrow’s doctors.
Let us all commit to using our work and our mission to secure the kind of just society in which we all yearn to live.
- Steven J. Scheinman, MD
President and Dean, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, Geisinger