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Dean Spann’s Letter to Faculty and Staff on the Impact of Structural Racism and Social Injustice on the Health of Our Community.

June 9, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

On this day that our nation, our city and our Third Ward Community honor the life and mourn the senseless death of George Floyd, we are reminded that the centuries-old scourge of structural racism and social injustice, manifested recently through ongoing police brutality and violence against black individuals and the glaring disparities in COVID-19 mortality in our black communities, continue to be a major cause of illness, disease, suffering, death and health disparities in our population. We are reminded that the compelling mission of our College of Medicine uniquely positions us as agents of change in communities of color.

We must approach our work to improve the health and health care of our region by training a diverse and compassionate group of physicians who will practice in primary care and other needed medical specialties in underserved urban and rural areas of our state; to discover new and better ways to provide health care and improve the health of our population; to provide compassionate, excellent, team-based care to the underserved in our community; and to engage and partner with neighboring communities with major health disparities to work together to improve their health and health care with a renewed sense of purpose.

On this day, we must reaffirm our dedication and commitment to our mission and acknowledge our unique opportunity to disrupt the patterns of social determinants of health that often stem from societal inequities and result in our black and other communities of color suffering disproportionate rates of disease and illness. We must recognize that structural racism and social injustice are major impediments to improving the health of our community, and we must commit ourselves to work towards their abolishment. As healers and educators of healers, we must commit ourselves to better listening to, hearing, understanding and feeling with our patients, our students and our colleagues the pain and suffering caused by the many years of racism and injustice. We must build trusting, healing relationships. We must have honest dialog and learn from each other. We must build a safe and trusting environment where we can discuss these issues openly and find ways together to bring about the necessary changes to right these wrongs.

I believe that we can be part of the much-needed solution. Through our relationships and our actions, focused on accomplishing our mission, we can contribute to bringing healing, hope and better health to our world. I invite you to join me in reaffirming our dedication and commitment to this mission today.

Kind regards,

Stephen J. Spann, M.D., MBA
Founding Dean, College of Medicine
Vice President for Medical Affairs