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Message from the Chair's Office: Reflection - Where Do We Go from Here?

The past few weeks have been studded with painful evidence that speak to America’s congenital disease of racism. It is a seemingly constant force, whether seen or not, whether acknowledged or not, whether challenged or uncontested. Racialized violence has victimized many communities of color, past and present. We have seen disturbing increases in anti-Asian bias and attacks recently, escalating to the mass shooting in Atlanta. Although the motive behind the Indianapolis shooting last week remains under investigation, it is notable that four of the eight individuals killed were from Indianapolis’ Sikh community. The lynchings that marred America’s past have been replaced by the egregiously disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown people killed as a result of uncalibrated use of deadly force by police.

Many in our community breathed a collective sigh of relief last week over the fact that a small measure of accountability had finally been delivered to but one of hundreds of families whose loved ones were murdered by police. The Chauvin trial took place a few miles away from where Daunte Wright was killed last week, and the verdict announced within the hour of when Ma’Khia Bryant was killed. These events, the persistent disparities that impose excess morbidity and mortality on communities of color, and medical and scientific racism, should be more than sufficient to compel those committed to justice to act.

Last year, our institution, as well as many institutions, organizations, and medical societies, pledged to become antiracist organizations. The antiracist frame asserts that racial groups are equal despite their apparent differences -- that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group -- and that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities. Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that produce racial equity because they are substantiated by antiracist ideas.

This week, we celebrate Weill Cornell Medicine's Third Annual Diversity Week. Our hope is that as a community committed to the care of children, the most vulnerable and the most valuable members of our society, we would commit to the necessary work in our personal and professional lives to effect change. This work includes choosing to see the humanity in one another and deliberate/intentional curiosity about “others.” It requires the commitment to self-education around social justice and consistent engagement in the brave though sometimes uncomfortable discussions of race, white supremacy, systems of power and oppression. Lastly it requires the commitment to challenging racism in all its forms, whether at the dinner table or the conference room. Of critical import is what and how we teach our children about others and about themselves.

Change will not come from any single verdict, but instead comes from all of us, our institutions, and our communities deciding to value one another, choosing to be change agents and choosing to hold one another accountable. This moment has furthered our commitment to changing the way we deliver care, collaborate, and advocate for all members of our community of colleagues and patients towards health equity and justice in its truest forms.

Joy D. Howell, M.D.
Assistant Dean for Diversity and Student Life
Vice Chair for Diversity and Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
Weill Cornell Medicine
Attending Pediatrician
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center

Sallie Permar, M.D., Ph.D.
Nancy C. Paduano Professor and Chair of Pediatrics
Weill Cornell Medicine
Pediatrician-in-Chief
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center

(Photo courtesy of rawpixel.com) 

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