The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and David McAtee by police officers have sparked a tinderbox of emotion across our nation. These atrocities are symbolic of the many injustices experienced by Black Americans in our society and reflect deeply entrenched systems of racism and discrimination that have plagued the United States since its inception.
At Weill Cornell Medicine, we join others around the world in condemning race-related violence and police brutality. Now, more than ever, we stand in solidarity with the black and brown communities who face marginalization and microaggressions every single day. We must eradicate the most egregious forms of racial inequality that exist in our society and root out the unconscious biases that reside in our own hearts and minds. We reject all forms of racism or bigotry within our community.
As an academic medical institution, we also know firsthand how disparities in healthcare wreak havoc on populations of color, resulting in increased risk and worse outcomes for conditions ranging from hypertension, to prostate cancer, to stroke. We were heartbroken and outraged to watch George Floyd struggle for breath, after seeing African Americans die of COVID-19-related respiratory failure at 2.4 times the rate of whites. Going forward, we must seek new and better ways to improve access to high-quality care for patients of color, to enhance anti-racist training in medical and graduate education, and to encourage greater diversity within biomedical research. These imperatives are fundamental to our responsibilities as members of the healthcare and scientific workforce.
During the past several years that I have served as dean at Weill Cornell Medicine, I have made it one of my top priorities to promote a stronger culture of diversity and inclusion at our institution. There is still much more work that we need to do, but I am proud of the inroads we have made so far. Although I know that a list of our recent accomplishments in diversity will do little to ease anyone’s suffering, I do want to acknowledge that we, as a community, can work together to effect change, one step at a time.
At Weill Cornell Medicine, we commit to redoubling our efforts to strengthen our culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. As initial measures, I am charging our administration to reexamine our practices and opportunities for the hiring, promotion, and elevation to leadership positions of our faculty and staff. We must ensure that our researchers, clinicians, educators, trainees, students, and employees have the opportunity to succeed and to advance in their careers, no matter the color of their skin. We also commit to extending annual unconscious bias training to all faculty and staff.
We will continue our momentum, and meaningful change will happen at Weill Cornell Medicine. Please know that my leadership team and I are carefully considering next steps. I have also received many suggestions of what we can do to move the needle at our institution, and I pledge to continue the conversation on anti-racism with each and every one of you. Together, we will work with our partners and with all of you to unite and heal from this pandemic of racism.
Augustine M.K. Choi, MD
Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean
Weill Cornell Medicine
Provost for Medical Affairs