Drawing a Line in the Sand

I’m in Baltimore attending the Association of American Medical Colleges’ annual meeting and this year’s meeting focus is social justice and racial inequity as contributors to health disparities. I just left an informative, timely, standing room only session on holistic review in admissions that revisited the Supreme Court’s consideration of the Fisher vs University of Texas case. Many schools are watching this case closely to better understand how to implement legally compliant recruitment strategies in order to matriculate medical school classes that meet their missions while reflecting the nation’s diversity.

The information shared was relevant and well-organized. Kudos to the presenters! But my take away from the session was not the importance of legally compliant recruitment strategies nor the evolution and effectiveness of holistic review in admissions. The most memorable moment in this session was when one of the presenters told a story about a student’s experience with bias in the classroom.

A student expressed concerns to the dean of students after an instructor made prejudicial and disparaging comments about food stamp recipients. Having been raised on food stamps, the student was offended by the comments and challenged their truthfulness. The dean encouraged the student to return to the professor and express her concerns. This dean empowered his student to own her educational experience and to take authority over her narrative.

I’m inspired by the students who have the courage to stand up to discrimination, to own their educational experience, and to speak truth to power…students like Jonathan Butler. Butler, 25, is a graduate student at the University of Missouri Columbia who has declared a personal hunger strike until University administration responds to increasing racism on campus including a demand for the resignation of President Tim Wolfe. In support of Butler’s efforts, more than 30 of the University’s football players have called their own strike, refusing to practice or to play until Wolfe resigns.

I don’t know whether these students’ demands will be met. However, I am encouraged by their willingness to lift their voices and proclaim that they deserve more than what they have received. I am inspired by their willingness to own their space and resolutely declare that business as usual is no longer acceptable.

I am grateful for the dean of students at that medical school who empowered that future doctor to raise her voice against prejudice. Maybe she will be the one in her hospital to demand equal access to intervention strategies for patients from underserved populations. Maybe she will be the one to offer additional screenings for uninsured patients. Maybe she will be the one to save a life that others would have written off because of the color of their skin.

NaBloPoMo_2015Maybe she will be my doctor.

Maybe she will be yours.

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