UTHSC Hosts Community Dialogue on Structural Racism

Category: Features

Top row, left: Altha Stewart, Police Director Michael Rallings, Rabbi Micah Greenstein, Claudette Shephard. Bottom row, from left: College of Medicine Executive Dean Scott Strome, David Schwartz, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and director of the Center for Health Equity; Rev. Charlie Caswell and College of Pharmacy Dean Marie Chisholm-Burns.


MEMPHIS – In June 2020, the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center hosted a free, virtual community dialogue titled, “Why Aren’t We All Mad? A Dialogue on Racism in the Health Care System.” 

More than 400 people joined Zoom for the dialogue to better understand the role of the college to make necessary changes to improve a system of structural racism that has created inequities in health care. 

“We need to begin to address and have these deep conversations as we are doing today, and then move a plan into action so that we aren’t paying for them 20 and 30 years from now,” the Rev. Charlie Caswell said.

Part of the discussion addressed the social inequities that affect different races as being a key contributor to the success and outcomes in health care.

“Going into medicine, we want to take care of everybody, but if we start valuing one person over the other, for whatever reason, then we violate the Hippocratic Oath. We violate what we went into medicine for,” Dr. Claudette Shephard, associate professor and incoming interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the College of Medicine, said.

Social justice as part of a fundamental component of health care is now seen as the norm and not the exception. Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said that the local law enforcement is a partner in this work.

“Caring needs to be a global responsibility of the entire health care community,” Dr. Scott Strome, executive dean of the College of Medicine, said. “As a community of physicians, we all have to look in the mirror and say we need to care for every single patient. We have to pledge to do better and have a structural conversation to ensure everyone has access to care. Everyone needs to be welcomed into our systems.”

Dr. David Schwartz, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and director of the Center for Health Equity, said there are simple things we can do each and every day in life with one another. “Walking down the hallway of a hospital and looking into the eyes of Black faces and saying ‘Hello, how can I help you?’ That is a very big step for a lot of people and it starts to change your perspective and it starts to make you look as a citizen of the world that includes all,” he said.

The college urged the audience to learn about the experiences of others and to meet people where they are, physically and mentally, from every perspective.

Dr. Marie Chisholm-Burns, dean of the College of Pharmacy, encouraged the audience to make their daily decisions through the lens of others, and to use that filter when providing care. “We are more similar than we are different. Each of us has privilege that we can use to bring forth liberation.”

Dr. Altha Stewart, senior associate dean for Community Health Engagement in the College of Medicine, associate professor of psychiatry, and director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth at UTHSC, closed the discussion by saying, “We are setting on this journey of looking for ways to improve the care we provide and the relationship we have with our community. I want everybody to commit to staying engaged in the conversation. Don’t let anger, the fear, the frustration, or the worry stop you.”

A recording of the roundtable discussion along with a list of valuable resources is available at the event website.   

UTHSC Human Resources Hosts Engagement Series 

During the time of coronavirus, the UT Health Science Center is committed to staying connected to one another. While the majority of employees were working from home and meeting with team members via Zoom, UTHSC’s human resources brought a fun and educational team together to share their experiences, stories and provide advice for others who are facing the “new normal.” 

They achieved this goal through a 13-week series hosted each Friday. 

Presenters came from a multitude of departments within UTHSC to present on topics ranging from staying connected during COVID-19 and work-life balance strategies to maintaining security while working remotely and how to best facilitate interaction, communication and expectations when working in a pandemic environment. 

To view these session recordings, please visit the Engagement Series 2020 website.  

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