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Joint Medical Program leadership response to WhiteCoats4BlackLives statement

Dear Members of the UC Berkeley-UCSF JMP Chapter of White Coats for Black Lives:

On behalf of the faculty and staff leadership of the JMP, I want to commend you for the powerful statement on the May 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement that you distributed on June 2. We acknowledge the trauma experienced by black people through generations, both on an individual and societal level, and the ways in which health care education and practice have perpetuated and carried out structural racism.

We agree with a recent statement by the American Medical Association leadership that “physical or verbal violence between law enforcement officers and the public, particularly among Black and Brown communities where these incidents are more prevalent and pervasive, is a critical determinant of health and supports research into the public health consequences of these violent interactions.” Abundant research already demonstrates that chronic exposure to racial discrimination has profound effects on health. Recognition of these effects and action to address structural racism must be part of the delivery of high-quality care to patients of color.

We agree that it is our responsibility to speak out against persistent race-based injustice and to take anti-racist action. We hear and join your call to the medical community for immediate action to combat racism in medical education and practice in five ways.

  • The development of a medical diagnosis for Chronic Exposure to Racism and incorporate this diagnosis into our healthcare system in order to prioritize and advocate for our Black patients.
  • Comprehensive anti-racism training for all US Medical Students, practicing Physicians, and associated health providers (including but not limited to: Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants and Medical Assistants).
  • Eliminate the use of race as a predisposing factor in medical diagnoses.
  • Utilize an anti-racist and health equity framework in medical education.
  • Improve the recruitment and support of Black medical students and physicians.

As members of the leadership committee of the JMP, we take this moment to acknowledge the ways in which we as staff, faculty, and as a program have not done enough. And to commit to the following:

  • Anti-racism training should be an essential component of health care provider education. The JMP is committed to building anti-racism training throughout our curriculum, including mandatory training of all students, faculty, and staff and will direct funds to this cause.
  • Race is a social construct, not a biological one. Race should not be used to guide medical judgment in clinical care. The JMP will not teach a race-based diagnostic approach and will work actively towards the abolition of biological race in Medicine and Public Health. We commit to examine our curriculum through an anti-racist lens, including auditing all PBL cases and PCCS curricula to eliminate any suggestion of race as a predisposing factor.
  • We believe that if we are to achieve health equity, medical students need to understand and apply critical race theory to understand the history of health disparities and current health inequity and racial disparity in the U.S. The JMP will work to include both critical race theory and a health equity framework throughout our curriculum.
  • We commit to work to strengthen our program’s ability to recruit, train, and support Black and other underrepresented students and physicians.
  • We commit to creating an infrastructure for feedback and accountability as we work toward these goals.

White supremacy is present in all aspects of American society, including health care and medical education. From recognition of this fact comes the opportunity to implement an anti-racist set of actions as you have called for. We commit to work with you to ensure that the JMP plays its necessary part in fighting white supremacy in health care and medical education. We join you and others across the United States and around the world in affirming that Black Lives Matter.

In solidarity,

John Balmes and the other members of the leadership committee of the JMP (Coco Auerswald, Amy Garlin, Sara Hartley, Jessie Heminway, Leanna Lewis, Aisha Mays, Shelene Stine, Gustavo Valbuena)

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