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Controversial grand jury action spurs gathering

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2020 - Spring


The recent decision by a grand jury not to charge police officers with murder in the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician who hoped one day to become a nurse, struck a chord with many at Yale School of Medicine (YSM).

Darin Latimore, MD, YSM deputy dean and chief diversity officer and associate professor of internal medicine (general medicine), was one of those affected. Outraged but determined to channel his frustration in a positive direction, he issued an invitation to groups affiliated with the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, as well as leadership, to join together to express hope.

“Many of us are pained to our core, disheartened, angry, and/or grieving that a decision was not reached that allows us to heal from these injustices and national civil unrest. However, we must not lose sight of our goal in creating an antiracist, just community,” wrote Latimore in the email. “Clearly, there is still so much left to do, and each of us has a role to play in moving our community forward.”

From 12:30 to 1 p.m., on the stairs of Sterling Hall of Medicine, nearly 100 students, faculty, and staff from YSM and Yale New Haven Hospital stood together to hear members of underrepresented groups share their stories about racist experiences. They also each expressed hope, and confidence in their colleagues’ commitment to eliminating police brutality and systemic racism.

Besides Latimore, who introduced the event, eight people spoke. Two of those speakers, fellows in the Department of Child Psychiatry, Jose Paez, MD, and Ayotunde Ayobello, MD, each took to a megaphone to describe what gave them hope. Ayobello said he was especially inspired to see people of all races and backgrounds gathered in unity.

Ghenekaro “Karo” Esin, MD, a resident with the Department of Internal Medicine and co-chair of the Yale Minority House Staff Organization (MHO), spoke about how she was glad to be part of an institution where she didn’t have to be afraid to stand up and speak out, and one where her abilities and the abilities of people like her weren’t discounted simply on the basis of skin color. “Amidst the injustice, being part of Yale MHO gives me hope and the strength to get up every day, put a smile on my face, and go to work,” said Esin.

Hannah Peterson hadn't heard about the gathering, but saw it on her way to the shuttle. A postgraduate fellow who works in the lab of Dustin Scheinost, PhD '13, assistant professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, Peterson attended the event, and felt that it highlighted something important about the compassion and inclusiveness of YSM. "I just moved to New Haven a month ago," Peterson said, "and I'm glad to see this type of response to injustice happening here."

Although the event was inspired by sadness and anger, the coming together of people from all over the spectrum at YSM helped reaffirm the school’s commitment to diversity on an individual level. Leaders in attendance included Nancy J. Brown, MD, Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Yale School of Medicine and C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine, and Gary Desir, MD, vice provost for faculty development and diversity, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, and Paul. B. Beeson Professor of Medicine. “I am heartened by the expressions of support and hope and by the courage to move forward,” said Brown.

After the event was over, Latimore expressed confidence that people had not given in to fear or despair, and that the YSM community was as dedicated as ever to creating an inclusive and safe environment for all of its members. “The event doesn’t stop because we leave to go home, or back to work,” he said. “That’s when the real challenge starts.”

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