We know that racism is pervasive and exists in all communities, including our own. Discrimination in its countless forms is a fact of life for many in our community.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 has once again rekindled our understanding and responses to the malignant effects of racism in our world. We are witnessing a reaction to prolonged issues of anti-black racism in the U.S. and Canada. This is not a new phenomenon, but it does engender the expression of anger and hope that this time it will be different.
We have ample experience in Manitoba and Canada with anti-black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-2SLGBTQI* discrimination. We have identified these as key issues to the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and have established several means to address them for all faculty, staff and learners.
Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and anti-racism initiatives, as well as Ongomiizwin, the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, have been established as important vehicles for change.
The Rady Faculty of Health Sciences’ landmark EDI policy applies across the faculty’s five colleges and sets the framework for building a Rady Faculty community that ensures a safe and welcoming learning and work environment, equity of opportunity and fair treatment for all.
After a consultation process with faculty, staff and students, the policy was approved in February. We recognize that there is much work to be done to eliminate barriers to the participation and advancement of members of historically under-represented groups, including women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, members of racialized communities, people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and members of refugee and immigrant groups.
Implementation/action plans will now be developed for each EDI policy statement. Working groups are looking at developing a Rady-wide policy on the prevention of learner mistreatment, conducting a diversity survey of all Rady learners and analyzing the gender pay gap in each college.
This is only a beginning. We must continue to identify, talk about and mitigate all forms of racism as we move forward. We must listen to those who are, and have been, affected.
We see the effects of all forms of discrimination on the social and economic well-being of our community. This nearly always translates into ill health effects and increases in morbidity and mortality, which we then deal with in our health system. This has once again been seen with the differential impacts of COVID-19 in marginalized communities.
As health-care professionals, we bear particular witness to these impacts. That makes it incumbent upon each of us to stand up and condemn all forms of discrimination and racism. Our patients deserve it – even, or especially, if the perpetrator is a colleague.
Speaking out against racism is our professional responsibility and is inherent in the oaths we take as we enter the health professions. Indeed, it is the very fabric of our commitment to our community and to our patients.
It is time to be watchful, introspective as to our own roles, and forceful in our condemnation.
In closing, I want to recognize each of you for your dedication as we have come together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In a period of less than six months, an emerging virus has upended our health, economic and social systems.
Everyone who has worked, learned or volunteered in a health-care setting has exercised the duty of care under extremely stressful conditions. Many of our colleagues throughout the world have lost their lives in the courageous battle to save others.
The duty of care is a hallmark of our professions, of which we should all be proud. As we continue to face the challenges of this crisis, I want to acknowledge and thank everyone in the Rady Faculty community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni, for your many important contributions over the last months – and no doubt in the coming months.
BRIAN POSTL [MD/76]
Vice-Provost (Health Sciences) & Dean,
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba