January 18, 2021

Dear colleague,

At a press conference before the 1966 convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death. I see no alternative to direct action and creative nonviolence to raise the conscience of the nation.”

Sadly — infuriatingly — the scourge of racism is as deadly to Black bodies now as it was when Dr. King spoke those words 55 years ago: Compared to whites, people of color are more likely to be uninsured, face barriers to care, and suffer and die from preventable health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Black families are three times more likely to live in poverty, and twice as likely to be food insecure. Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police.

Health care providers like us have a critical role to play in dismantling the racism that shortens Black lives. Besides fighting for an equitable and universal health care system, we must identify and take ownership of the racial bias within our own profession.

This bias was on full display in the recent death of Dr. Susan Moore, a Black physician who died from complications of COVID-19 on Dec. 20. While hospitalized, Dr. Moore repeatedly complained about her delayed diagnosis, and inadequate treatment for pain, bacterial pneumonia, and severe respiratory symptoms. In a final plea for help, she posted this VIDEO to Facebook, crying out, “This is how Black people get killed.”

Dr. Moore’s death is a chilling reminder of widespread racial inequity in health care, and the fact that people of color are not protected from racial bias by their education, income, or professional status.

Change must start with health care professionals like us. There are several actions that you can take to honor Dr. Moore’s life and to make good on Dr. King’s call to action. 

1. Attend the online forum, “Unequal Treatment: The Death of Dr. Susan Moore” on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The circumstances surrounding the treatment and subsequent death of Dr. Susan Moore, a Black physician, cannot go unaddressed. We must confront institutional racism in health care by fighting not only for equitable and universal coverage, but for substantive institutional accountability and the eradication of racism in all forms. This forum is co-sponsored by PNHP’s NY-Metro Chapter and Provident Clinical Society, an affiliate of the National Medical Association. The forum will be held virtually, all are welcome, and closed captioning will be provided.

Visit bit.ly/Jan2021ForumPNHP to RSVP for the Jan. 26 forum.

2. Explore and use one of PNHP’s toolkits on racial health equity: 

3. Read and share this important new study published by medical students (among others) in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Misrepresenting Race: The Role of Medical Schools in Propagating Physician Bias.” Then, support the future physicians who are pushing hard for anti-racist medical education and care at academic medical centers and medical schools by making a CONTRIBUTION to our allies at White Coats for Black Lives. WC4BL is an organization run primarily by medical students working to dismantle racism in medicine and promote the health, well-being, and self-determination of people of color. 

Today, as we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, let’s not forget his call to use “direct action and creative nonviolence to raise the conscience of the nation.”

In solidarity,

Susan Rogers, M.D.

Physicians for a National Health Program
29 E Madison St Ste 1412 | Chicago, Illinois 60602
312-782-6006 | info@pnhp.org

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