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Joint Medical Program Students Come Together for WhiteCoats4BlackLives Rally

On June 6, more than 300 UC Berkeley students, health care workers, faculty, and community members gathered in front of Berkeley Public Health’s building at Berkeley Way West to participate in a WhiteCoats4BlackLives rally, sponsored by the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP).

WhiteCoats4BlackLives is a national medical student–run organization whose mission is to dismantle racism in medicine and promote the health, well-being, and self-determination of people of color.

The demonstration was organized by Aminta Kouyate and Fatuma-Ayaan Rinderknech, along with other students from the JMP. Andrea Jacobo of the Community Action team and DrPH students spoke alongside other student activists and community members and those in attendance took part in an eight-and-a-half-minute period of silence to memorialize George Floyd, who was murdered when a police officer kneeled on his neck for that amount of time.

“The purpose of our event was to create a space for healthcare workers to demand an end to police brutality and police violence against Black people,” said co-organizer and JMP student Rinderknecht. “As medical students, we believe it is our duty to improve the health of our community. Police violence and racism is a public health crisis, and a threat to the health of our community, and we feel compelled to speak out and protest against it.”

The students had a list of demands, including:

  1. Comprehensive anti-racism training for all US medical students, practicing physicians, and other health care providers.
  2. Elimination of the use of race as a predisposing factor in medical diagnoses.
  3. Utilization of an anti-racist and health equity framework in medical education.
  4. An increase in the recruitment and support of Black medical students and physicians.

“We will continue to work towards diversifying the field of medicine through our pathway development program, which has received a three-year, $61,000 grant to mentor and prepare underrepresented minority students to enter the medical field,” Kouyate said.

The event’s organizing committee included Aminta Kouyate, Camila Hurtado, Fatuma Rinderknecht, Marycon Jiro, and Haruna Aridomi.