A message from our CV Medicine Division Chief:
I want to address everyone, not as Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine, but as a black man in America who happens to wear a white coat and happens to have the opportunity of a lifetime to be in this role in such a great institution with such great people. I am armed with the knowledge I do not walk the streets in my white coat and that I could have easily been Mr. Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis…simply a black man murdered due to racism.
Eight minutes and 46 seconds.
This time will be forever burned in my mind. Unfortunately, this time marked the amount of time that Mr. George Floyd suffered under the knee of racism in his murder. We have all watched with disbelief, pain and horror as we try to function daily in the application of the Hippocratic Oath. Over the past 11 days, I have also been touched by so many people who have reached out to me to ensure that I am OK and have shared how these events have touched them. It reminds me of the importance of us all helping each other: our colleagues, our family and friends, our patients and anyone we can contact.
On Thursday, at the Rally for Racial Justice, I was touched by the strong support, message of unity, and importance of change from the diverse workforce at Stanford University. This is a proud moment for me as a black man and as Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine, that we can say that “We Are Stanford”! Though we have many backgrounds, fears, and risks, we have to stand together for change so that we all can work together and ensure our safety both at work and at home.
As I knelt together with colleagues for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, I felt pain, heat, and anguish with the clear knowledge that this was nothing compared to what has been felt not only by Mr. Floyd, but also by many black people across America, both before Mr. Floyd’s death and afterwards.
The pain in my back and joints was without someone forcing me to kneel because of inequities and without the excessive force that was used on Mr. Floyd. It reflects the pain that Blacks in America (and others in America) feel as their wounds remain opened. The 92-degree heat that made it challenging to keep my hand on the hot concrete for the full time is nothing compared to the pain Mr. Floyd must have felt to have his face and body pressed against the concrete with force and without the ability to adjust as I could do yesterday for momentary relief. The anguish I experienced while kneeling due to my reflection on the injustices of people I know and those I don’t know is nothing compared to the anguish of the experiences that have created PTSD among some of us due to racial injustice, the anguish of what continues to be a normal existence daily for many who suffer in silence, and the fear of what the future holds with knowledge that life is so precious and can be forever changed in a moment.
I stand with you and am ready to listen to all of you. To our faculty, staff, trainees, and the community I serve, I grieve with you. As a premier academic institution, we are all leaders. Our patients and our community watch us. We can be the change that we want to see. But we know that change is associated with pain, heat, and anguish. Change occurs with fear; change comes with self-examination and honesty. As these emotions arise, remember that members of our community experience this daily but we must march forward.
As we continue to grieve and try to heal with focus on the “Black American experience,” let’s know that we can each do our part to help. We are all unique and each contribute to the richness of Stanford…the richness of America. I appreciate the support from everyone! Let’s reflect on kindness, patience, understanding, and self-control as we interact with each other, our patients, and the greater community. Let’s think outside of the box about how we can help each other and reduce inequities in America and in healthcare. This is a time for healing: a time for change and the relentless pursuit of hope.
Please stay safe! Please reach out to let me know how I can help and how we can move this nation forward. Together we need to cultivate a safe workplace and to ensure the safety of the communities in which we and our families and friends live. The brutal killing of Mr. Floyd is the stark reminder that much work lies ahead to make Dr. King’s dream a reality not only for us, but for the future generations to come.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”