Many in our community – including our staff, members, volunteers, and the diverse constituencies we serve – are experiencing significant pain, fear, and distress after the tragic death of George Floyd and the widespread unrest that has followed. It is a moment that is especially difficult for Black Americans and other people of color, who have long experienced a pattern of violence perpetrated against them. I am making this statement to offer my support to those who are hurting and pledge to do my part to build a more just future for everyone.
I have made the following commitment to the staff of the National Academy of Medicine, and I hereby share it with the broader NAM community:
I commit to ensuring that all people and especially people of color feel safe and supported while working at the NAM, as well as to pursuing racial equity in our organizational policies and procedures. I commit to using our platform to improve the lives of people who experience disproportionate health disparities as a result of socioeconomic inequity, bias, and structural racism. I commit to listening, learning, and working with all of you.
We all have a part to play at this pivotal moment in American history and in fueling the change that must follow. At the NAM, where our purview is health, we acknowledge that structural racism is a major driver of poorer health outcomes for people of color compared with their white peers. As stated succinctly in a recent National Academies report, “Racism and discrimination – both in the health care system and in everyday life – have a well-documented impact on the health of marginalized communities. The adverse impacts of racism can be manifested in lower-quality health care; residential segregation and lack of affordable housing; or the accumulation of daily stressors resulting from micro- and macro-level aggressions, unconscious and conscious bias, and discrimination.”
In 2017, the NAM revised its mission statement to explicitly include “advancing health equity” as a priority. This means sustained scrutiny of the systemic factors that have led to ingrained health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations and other marginalized groups, as well as proactive steps to ensure equitable benefit from the scientific and medical advances of the present and future. We pledge to keep health equity at the center of our work in order to achieve a healthier future for everyone, not just a privileged few.
We also acknowledge that people of color are historically underrepresented in medicine and biomedical science, which perpetuates inequitable health outcomes. At the NAM and the National Academies, we have a lot of work to do to increase racial and ethnic diversity among our staff and membership. We are committed to doing this work and have launched a membership diversity task force and staff committee on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Our work is just beginning. Rebuilding the systems and structures that lead to inequitable outcomes for people of color and other marginalized populations will be difficult and sometimes painful. But equity is worth fighting for. We will not lose momentum, focus, or hope. Together, I know we will succeed.
–Victor J. Dzau, MD, President, National Academy of Medicine