Standing together against racism

My May 8 blog was about how the pandemic was hitting people in minority, under-served and disadvantaged groups harder than others, supported by research conducted by members of our own team here at the CoM. The pandemic was very much top-of-mind in that blog, as it has been for nearly three months.

In the past week, racism and its dire impact on the well-being of so many is the top story of our news outlets and top-of-mind for me, as it should be.

I want our Black learners and colleagues to know that their dean, their leaders, their colleagues, and many, many others, recognize the heavy toll in sadness, anger and despair of the way George Floyd died. For our Indigenous learners and colleagues, this is an all-too-familiar and heartbreaking situation.

I know that I do not have all the answers and that we need to do more as a college to eliminate racism from our workplace. But in this moment, I hope it helps in some small way to know that your College of Medicine stands with you.

12 thoughts on “Standing together against racism

  1. Thank you Preston for your leadership. Your responses to the comments above show the genuineness of your heart on this matter. I am very happy to see all the work done towards addressing discrimination against the Indigenous people of Canada. Anti-Black racism, albeit similar, is a separate matter. This has not been addressed in any tangible or specific way in Canada, especially in the healthcare sector. Creating a safe space to talk about this issue and to have those who can effect change listen, is a great starting point. Having a timeline for this and the changes that need to happen would be important for transparency and accountability.

  2. Peter Butt
    Thank you Preston. This needed to be said. Now the task is to address racism more directly and effect change. We need to be able to identify it when it occurs in our health care system (and elsewhere), name it and address it in a manner that will accomplish that shift. People need education and skills that can be applied in the moment in a simple, direct, forthright way to call it out. Is this a UG communication skill module, PG Professionalism piece and CPD? Let’s not get lost in too much theory and rhetoric but focus on concise, effective intervention skills. It’s a “critical conversation” .

    • Thank you, Peter, for this thoughtful comment. We have more work to do in this area without a doubt, but I do want to support awareness of work we are doing, too.

      In our undergraduate medical education curriculum we offer a number of lectures covering Indigenous topics, including cultural safety and competency, and experiential learning at Wanuskewin Heritage Park and in Indigenous and other communities. As well, content on recognition of bias within oneself, stigma in general and LGBTQ2+ and stigma, and learning about creating positive spaces.

      Our learners, faculty and staff participate in Indigenous health online courses, one for practitioners and another for non-practitioners, developed by our Continuing Medical Education Division in partnership with the School of Rehabilitation Science. Many participants’ registrations are supported financially by our college (administrative staff), and by the Saskatchewan Medical Association, which covers course and registration fees for our Year 4 undergraduate learners. These courses are moderated by Indigenous graduate students at USask and were designed in collaboration with Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Elders and based on the Cultural Responsiveness Framework. Participants learn about the systemic racism found in healthcare, Truth and Reconciliation, cultural genocide and inter-generational trauma.

      In postgraduate education, various programs proactively include meeting time for discussion of inequities including what we can do towards anti-racism, and a quarterly survey of residents includes the opportunity to identify this and other issues. Specific sessions are offered on the social determinants of health, including the role of racism and discrimination in health inequities.

      Anonymous and confidential reporting mechanisms of issues including racism are provided for all learners, supported by policies and processes guiding responses to complaints.

      I thank our team and learners for their commitment to this work. As I said, we need to build on this and do more.

  3. Thank you for this, Preston. We need to listen with humility, hear with our hearts, and act. Vitriol and violence against other human beings is never acceptable.

  4. As a Black graduate student I needed to hear this. Thank you Dean for your words. Can we create space to have conversations about Anti-Black racism and next steps.

    • Thank you, Isabelle. Your suggestion is valued, we are taking it to heart and will provide more information on how our college will help create opportunities for this and further conversations on fighting racism.

  5. Thank you for highlighting these most tragic recent events. They serve as a very timely reminder that we in Canada and Saskatchewan also have a lot to do if we are to address racism and discrimination in all their many forms. Essential to this task is the critical shift from viewing the traditionally marginalized groups as ‘victims’ to engaging them as meaningful partners in determining our common future together.

  6. True, and please support our learners & teachers who are facing increased racism from those who associate Covid with anything Chinese.

  7. Very nice and thoughtful post from you Dean Preston. Hopefully we shall overcome this scourge of our society specially with regards to our learning and working environ

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