LETTER: CU medical students create plan for racial justice in curriculum and local community

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EDITOR: As I was welcomed as a first-year medical student to the University of Colorado School of Medicine during our White Coat Ceremony last year, the words of one speech lingered long after the ceremony ended: “There will be dark days, but search for the light. Find it. Find it. There will be glimmers of it all around you … the more light you find, you will start reflecting it back.” 

It has been hard to see the light with the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Elijah McClain. May 25, 2020, February 23, 2020, March 13, 2020, May 27, 2020, and August 24, 2019 were dark days. 

My job as a future physician won’t just be to take care of people that are sick. As a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath states, I will “remain a member of society, with special obligations to all … fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.” My responsibility is not just to my patients; it’s to the entire community. I will be a champion of equality; I will actively work toward making the world a better place for Black individuals. And to do that, I’ll need to address and change the underlying systems that disadvantage Black individuals.

My classmates were glimmers of light in the darkness of recent events. In the past few weeks, a hardworking group of students called the University of Colorado School of Medicine (CUSOM) Black Student Collective (BSC) has created and released comprehensive recommendations for institutional changes at and beyond the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. BSC has shown commendable advocacy by not only targeting reform within the school, but also by embracing their responsibilities as future physicians to enact changes in the larger society. 

BSC is designed to create systemic change. Key recommendations in the resolution include advocacy for students and faculty that are underrepresented in medicine, annual reviews of curricular materials for evidence of bias, and increased transparency regarding incidents of bias and racism. Further, it urges CUSOM to begin dialogue with associated hospitals on how to avoid unintentionally segregating medical care based on race and citizenship. 

Undoubtedly, achieving racial justice will be a large task. We are fortunate to be working with an administration that has not only invited dialogue, but has also promptly taken action by creating a council of cross-campus leaders from every school and college to institute BSC’s recommended changes. It is powerful to see students and administrators from all backgrounds to come together as a force of change. 

I found hope, perseverance, and solidarity written in the lines of the Black Student Collective’s resolution. This advocacy illustrates a new generation of doctors’ commitment to looking at medicine on a systemic level and making the world a little brighter.

The momentum of change has already started, and it takes a community to keep moving forward. We hope that maybe, just maybe, once you’ve found the light we’re putting into the world, that you too can begin reflecting it back. 

Please read the resolution and consider signing your name as an ally in the pursuit of racial justice. 

— Rachael Weesner, via [email protected]