"We are here today because we recognize that our health care system is one of the many systems contributing to structural racism,” was the line that started a Black Lives Matter demonstration led by Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics on Friday. The front walk of Sterling Hall of Medicine filled edge to edge with doctors, nurses, and Yale School of Medicine faculty and staff for their part in a nationwide demonstration of #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives. As the nation mourns for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and countless others, the Department of Pediatrics created a call-to-action: Show up and then speak up, because Black Lives Matter.
White Coats for Black Lives' mission is to dismantle racism in medicine and promote the health, well-being, and self-determination of people of color. Dozens of healthcare staff from the school and Yale New Haven Hospital turned out to reflect on the moment and reaffirm their commitment to the work that lies ahead. The demonstration was organized by Tanya Murtha, MD, MPH, Molly Markowitz, MD, Amanda Calhoun, MD, MPH, and Marietta Vazquez, MD, and was sponsored by the Yale Pediatrics Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
As keynote speaker, Dr. Calhoun took the megaphone and spoke to the crowd: “My name is Dr. Amanda Calhoun and I am a Pediatrics and Psychiatry intern at Yale. But long before I was a doctor, I was a Black person in America. And this white coat does not protect me. This white coat does not protect your Black colleagues. We are scared every day. We worry about our families every day. And we were hurting every day. We all are here today to stand against police brutality. But we are also here to stand against racism. We are also here to stand against anti-Blackness. If you’re here today, you have already mobilized, and I appreciate you and I welcome you. You made it. If you are here today, you are standing with us activists in this fight. If you’re here today, you’re saying ENOUGH! Enough murdering of Black people. Enough modernized lynchings of Black people. Enough systemic racism in the medical system. Enough being silent.”
The crowd of colleagues and peers cheered loudly in support of her message and voiced their readiness to play a role in creating a more just and equal society for Black patients in their care and Black people in our community and across the country. Many left the event to hand out surgical masks to protesters on the New Haven Green, a simple and important action as we all continue to fight racism in the midst of a pandemic.