Dear EVMS Community,
Injustice is not new. But events over the last several days have once again emphasized a long pattern of tragic deaths of black men and women at the hands of an unjust system. As a white man, I do not worry daily about being pulled over for “driving while white.” As a white man, I have not had to live in constant fear that my life may be taken from me at any moment. As a white man, I have benefited in countless ways from the “privilege” of my skin color.
Melanin should not determine meaning or value. There should be no privilege around the genetic trait of skin color. No one should be deemed more or less worthy based on to whom they are born. Each individual deserves respect and dignity and should treated humanely and equitably.
Unfortunately, events over the last several days have once again presented the deadly symptoms of the underlying disease plaguing our country. To our colleagues, students and community members of color: We see you. We hear you. We witness your pain. Our hearts are broken and we are outraged.
But we know that you need more than our anger and despair. So, we commit to going beyond witnessing your suffering. We stand with you. And we will act overtly and resolutely to oppose racism and social injustice on our campus, in our clinics and in our community.
As physicians and health professionals we are called to facilitate healing. True healing means moving beyond treating just the symptoms. True healing means focusing on prophylaxis; on preventing the root causes of injustice and inequity. I, and many others throughout EVMS, swore an oath to do no harm. It is clear that silence and inaction in the face of systemic racism do harm.
We cannot call ourselves “healers” and fail to take the necessary actions to eradicate the cancerous spread of racism. We have an affirmative duty to respond to racist speech and actions we encounter in both our personal and professional lives. Silence and inaction lead only to more senseless death and brutality; to a society crippled by the sickness of intolerance, discrimination and violence.
I am proud of the diversity, equity and inclusion work going on across campus. We can, and will, do more. Our 2020-2024 strategic plan, “Advancing Health Equity and Inclusion for Community and Academic Impact,” was developed with the input of faculty, residents, staff and students across campus and has begun critical DE&I work that will result in long-term, positive impacts.
In the meantime, we cannot overlook the actions that matter in the daily lives of our students, our colleagues and our community. We cannot overlook the symptoms of systemic racism manifesting now — in Hampton Roads and across the country. The treatment plan is obvious but not simple:
- We must recognize our privilege: white privilege for those of us who are not people of color; economic privilege for those of us who have enjoyed systemic benefits denied to others. We must do all we can to ensure everyone can receive these advantages.
- We must acknowledge that our current system is not equitable and that many of our colleagues, students and community members are actively disadvantaged and living in fear.
- We must actively stand with people of color eschewing silence and inaction. We must identify racist speech, actions and policies and change them.
- We must support and care for each other — regardless of differences. We must facilitate healing in our classrooms, our offices, our clinics and our community.
I have seen first-hand the passion and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and excellence in you. As a result, I believe strongly that EVMS can be a catalyst for change. Thank you for your hard work to date, and thank you in advance for the hard work you will engage in to help heal our campus and our community.
Richard V. Homan, MD
President and Provost, Eastern Virginia Medical School
Dean of the School of Medicine