Dear Members of the Graduate Medical Education Community,
I am compelled as a citizen to speak with you about the pain that we are experiencing. I acknowledge that I am not an African American man and cannot speak on their behalf. But I am a human being and a physician who must respond. The nation, the city of Chicago, our local communities, and our families have been shaken by the events of the past week. We collectively grieve over the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hand of four policemen, and rage against its roots in racism and the devaluation of human life. This malicious act has ignited reaction to this most deep-rooted injustice across our nation and comes in a time where we recognize inequity in health and survival from the pandemic upon us. We join arm-in-arm with the peaceful protestors to demand changes in our society and our systems in order to root out racism and injustice, and foster equity, mutual understanding, kindness, and justice. We understand the anger, pain, and frustration being demonstrated in the streets across our country, and we also recognize the fear and insecurity being felt by so many, including our colleagues, in the aftermath of the rioting of the past few days.
The work of the ACGME has always been to bring people together to build better systems of education and training for the improvement of the health and well-being of the public. This includes a special responsibility to take-on the challenging work required to solve deep rooted societal problems as they manifest in medicine. These problems include both educational and clinical care challenges. The underrepresentation of African Americans, especially African American men, lack of equity and covert and overt discrimination in our clinical learning environments have dramatic and negative influences on the professional identity formation of all resident physicians. The impact of disparate access to, and treatment in, our health care system for African American patients, and the subsequent “socialization” of these practice patterns in our residents and fellows propagates disparities of care, harms patients, and results cumulatively in the disparate risk of loss of life as demonstrated in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
We have seen the young people of our nation – black, brown, and white – speak out against the scourge of racism in America. They call us all to respond as people, and we as physicians bear a special responsibility to respond. It is our collective duty to advocate for all our patients, and to care equally and equitably for all our patients, even as we care about our patients. We must use the support and appreciation the public has provided us due to the heroic altruistic work we have seen in health care across our nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We must leverage that heightened social standing to speak out on behalf of everyone, promote equity and fairness, and demand justice in all its forms, especially in the provision of health care to all who require it.
As an organization, all of us at the ACGME pledge to use our experience and wisdom to work with the GME community to help, however we are able, to heal the nation after this time of tremendous grief and anxiety. We must energize this work and sustain the commitment required to make a positive difference in our educational and clinical environments, as well as in all of society. Only when racism, implicit bias, and other forms of discrimination are rooted out of our society, and when our health care system provides its benefits to all in need, can we rest.
Thomas J. Nasca, MD, MACP
President and Chief Executive Officer