June 3, 2020

A statement from the medical student leadership of the WSU School of Medicine

“Systems (of oppression) are maintained by complicit agents. Complicit agents include those who exploit their power and those who deny their powers exist. The tragic murders we see are a product of the first group. The lack of justice, accountability, and progress is caused by the second.” -- Busayo Twins

George Floyd is just the most recent casualty in a long line of painful deaths — Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner — the list is heartbreakingly long. Say their name. Remember their story. On May 25, 2020, a murder took the life of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American male. Floyd’s murder brought into clear focus, once again, the systematic way black communities are targets of police brutality, racial profiling and structural discrimination. It illustrates the enduring and shameful legacy of racism in the United States and its deadly effects on communities and individuals of color.

Individually, these deaths demonstrate a cruel use of violence by publicly-funded, armed policing. Collectively, the murders illustrate systemic racism embedded in our community. Each new death adds to the collective trauma of black communities. Furious, outraged and in mourning, thousands have taken to streets in cities across the United States. Protesters demand justice for the countless victims of racism and structural inequity while advocating for police system reform.

To Our Students of Color, we see you, we hear you and we acknowledge the waves of pain, trauma and exhaustion that racism causes. We want to remind you that your voice is important and valued, but so is your action of just “being.” You are not responsible for carrying the weight of educating the masses, debating your humanity or spreading awareness of the systemic racism you face daily. Focus on healing, and what your energy can carry you to do. Tap out if necessary, grieve as needed, and do not feel guilty for doing that. You matter, your lives matter, black lives matter. We recommend “The Four Bodies: A Holistic Toolkit for Coping with Racial Trauma” as a resource for healing and we encourage you to access the counseling services available to WSU students.

To Our Student Body at Large, who came to medicine to serve others, this may seem like a tragic situation for a particular community — we want to remind you that this is a human rights issue. As medical students and future physicians dedicating our careers to advancing health, treating the sick and healing the injured, it is imperative to understand this does not begin and end in the hospital. Our nation has shown us time and time again that black bodies are not valued. Acknowledging our reality, potential privilege, and working to dismantle systems that uphold racial hierarchy and perpetuate this public health crisis are vital to saving lives inside and outside the hospital. We implore you to not be silent, to educate yourselves and your communities, and to use your voice responsibly to highlight and uplift voices from historically marginalized communities.

To Our Detroit Community, who we continue to serve medically, we see you, and we are dedicated to you. As physicians-in-training, we are speaking up for our community and advocating for justice to be served. This is a painful time in America. We see you 
disproportionately in our intensive care unit beds fighting Covid-19, we hear your stories of difficulty accessing medical care, and we stand with you as we advocate on the streets for police and criminal justice reform. We know racism and discrimination bind these tragedies and we are here to dismantle systems of oppression. We support the welfare of our community, which is unachievable as black and brown bodies are unjustly murdered. We demand legal regulatory change that supports and protects people of color when their voices and bodies are violated. Until we have a just society, we will continue to fight with you and for you.

To Our Academic Institution, as the largest single-campus medical institution, residing in Detroit, where more than 75% of the population is African American, we must take seriously our responsibility to prepare future health care leaders and advocates to serve the needs of this community. We ask that our institution reaffirm its mission to educate a diverse student body in a culture of inclusion with a commitment to the following: 1. Implementing a longitudinal and integrated curriculum grounded in social justice in medicine;  2. Formulating a crisis response plan that is reflective of our institution’s values of diversity and inclusion, and maintains a safe and positive learning environment for all students; 3. Providing infrastructure to execute the above through dedicated resources for an ombudsman, expanded capacity for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, faculty development and enhanced curricular support.

Sincerely,

Capricia Bell, Black Medical Association Student National Medical Association, Co-President She/Her/Hers

Ntami Echeng Institutional Justice and Inclusion Subcommittee, Executive Board Member She/Her/Hers

Prisca Abraham, Board of Student Organizations, Diversity and Inclusion Chair She/Her/Hers

Anjali Alangaden, Institutional Justice and Inclusion Subcommittee, Executive Board Member She/Her/Hers

Ashleigh Peoples, M.P.H., Dean’s Diversity Advisory Council, Student Appointment by the Dean She/Her/Hers

Peter Dimitrion, Board of Student Organizations, President He/Him/His

Verónica Santana-Ufret, Dean’s Diversity Advisory Council, Student Appointment by the Dean She/Her/Hers

Ellen Murphy, M.D., Dean’s Diversity Advisory Council, Student Appointment by the Dean She/Her/Hers

Connor Buechler, School of Medicine Student Senate, Executive President He/Him/His