The Silence Here is Deafening – And It Kills

by Ohenewaa Nkrumah

On one of my last days at the University of Washington School of Medicine (UW SOM) before I took a leave of absence that was prompted by one racially violent incident after the other, I sat in class fighting back tears of frustration, humiliation, and anger. As a Black queer non-binary student studying in a predominantly white medical school where racism is prevalent, these emotions were familiar guests of mine.

On that day, these emotions had been triggered by a white male child psychiatrist who was standing in front of the class, pointing his index finger in my direction, impatient with my “misbehavior.” Between his berating finger and condescending tone, he authoritatively communicated to me that he did not have the time to engage with my questions surrounding race. We (i.e. he) needed to move on. However, when a white student commented after me that the concerns of students of color should not be dismissed, the professor’s demeanor became more thoughtful and the finger of authority disappeared.

The topic of the hour was Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry. The child psychiatrist serving as our physician professor of the day was talking about children with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). According to the assigned chapter of the day, children with ODD were often angry and resentful, often argued with authority figures, and often refused to comply with requests from said authority figures. As the professor tactlessly put it in class, these children were “argumentative, snotty, difficult, challenging, and a pain in the ass.” The medical community was concerned that children with this “disorder” could go on to develop another one called Conduct Disorder, defined as “a pattern of behaviour in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated.”

When I read that chapter and later as I sat in class, I was appalled by the lack of historical context provided about how these “disorders” have been used to justify the oppression of People of Color, queer folks, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, immigrants, and those who are disabled. At the very least, there should have been a discussion about how these diagnoses still contribute to the disproportionate criminalization of Black children and their unfair expulsions from academic institutions.

We were being taught as medical students to pathologize behaviors that are expressed in marginalized communities in response to unfair systems of oppression and yet we did not have the time to talk about how such a practice perpetuates injustices and ill-health. When I named the concerns I had about the erasure of anti-black racism present in the disorders and also in the lecture itself, my attempt to center such a discussion in class was seen instead as disruptive. Like those “argumentative, snotty, difficult, challenging, pain in the ass children” with ODD who passed through this professor’s practice, I needed to be put in my place.

I share this experience not because it is atypical/isolated but because it very much the norm at UW SOM. The pattern of racism is so rampant at this school that students of color struggle to find and retain a basic sense of wellness and safety. Some of us – like me – end up taking a temporary leave of absence. Others have to expand, taking longer to finish. Still others quit the program entirely as the racialized violence builds up and becomes too much to bear.

The hostility we face at UW SOM from faculty, admin, and other students is steeped in history. Historically and to this day, white medical practitioners have been instrumental in the creation and perpetuation of oppressive systems that have justified colonization and enslavement of communities of color. From assigning arbitrary levels of humanity and worth to people based on racialized characteristics (i.e. the Black non-human savage fit to be criminalized and used as property vs. the white human intellectual who is to benefit from the labor of the savages), to creating mental diagnoses that have resulted in the mass institutionalization of communities of color, to constructing eugenics hypotheses and practices that have led to considerable genocide, to enacting rules and metrics that barred people of color from practicing medicine—the brutal history of white western medicine is endless This active maligning continues today and is most evident in the health and health-care disparities we see.

I sit in protest. On Silence.

For example, racial discrimination in housing, employment, college education, insurance access, and documentation status result in higher rates of morbidity from cardiovascular disease and diabetes among Black, Native American, and non-white Latinx communities – and these higher rates are further informed by explicit and implicit racism by medical practitioners who interact with patients from these communities. This historical context highly informs an institution like UW SOM that, while coercively built on Native land, is filled to the brim with white administrators, faculty, staff, and students who inject toxic whiteness and superiority into the learning environment.

Since arriving at UW SOM, I have felt the weight of this toxic whiteness keenly. The curriculum from which I am taught often lacks a crucial racial analysis. Diseases and illnesses that are clearly informed by socio-economic factors are taught in a de-contextualized vacuum. In the rare instance that racial justice issues are centered, the teaching is still carried out in a way that is highly aggressive to students of color in the class.

One of my first introductions to the racism inherent in the curriculum taught at UW SOM was from a lecture on the Tuskegee syphilis study. In this research project that spanned 40 years and that focused on African-American men with syphilis, the predominantly white medical practitioners who headed the study intentionally withheld treatment from the men. Instead of focusing on the racialized trauma present in the study and its ramifications on the African-American community, the professor spent most of that class time guiding us through the “ethics” of the study–as if the ethics of a set of actions that so deeply harmed a community was debatable.

As a consequence of this de-contextualization, students were also not given the space to navigate the anti-Black biases we each hold that cause us to harm our patients nor did we focus on how this informs the distrust that black communities have of medical practitioners. I had the displeasure of sitting in this lecture again the next year. Despite critical feedback from the previous year’s students for changes to be made in how this study contextualized racism and accountability in the medical community towards Black patients, these changes were not made.

This trend of de-centering and erasing racism-informed historical trauma from the medical school curriculum repeats over and over. As a Black student, I often feel like I am being taught to kill the very patients I came into medicine to serve. To counter this, I have had to fight every day at UW SOM for the type of medicine I want to practice. Class thus becomes a hostile zone for students of color where biases that the medical field already holds against the communities we come from are reinforced.

As students of color at UW SOM become increasingly aware of the ways racist curriculum pushes us to become physicians who keep contributing to the harm patients of color face, we respond in various ways. Some of us disengage from the school, fragmenting and isolating ourselves so we can pass through the system. Others organize and push back for change.

In my own organizing work in this school, I have come to realize how efficient the school is at swallowing up the labor SOCs expend while giving minimal positive change in return. After student activism efforts last year to call attention to the lack of support for students of color as well as the lack of framing around systems of oppression in the curriculum, the school rolled out a new course called “Ecology of Health and Medicine” with the purpose of addressing social justice issues.

In an amazing example of the school recreating its toxic self, a white physician was appointed to lead this course and it was staffed predominantly with other white leads and facilitators. In my conversations with students of color taking this course, there is still rampant unaddressed macroaggressions. Students of color are thus checking out completely while white students are essentially being mobilized to go out into the physician world to enact their biases.

This is how patients of color end up suffering in medical institutions. Yet in our push for change, students of color are often psychologically punished for our efforts. In a recent interaction with the administration where we were advocating for changes in admission policies that would address some of the racism inherent in the application process, we caused a stir when we took our concerns beyond Carol Teitz, the dean of admissions at the time who was unwilling to treat us as equals and to center our input. Carol Teitz informed us that in breaking rules of hierarchy, we were “unprofessional”, we were at risk of burning bridges, and that we were picking up skills to be problematic physicians to our patients.

Among several other punishment tools, unprofessionality, bridge burning, and the prospects of bad physician-hood are constantly used as a form of control against us by admin and faculty – as if the only way of being “professional” is to meet the colonial and arbitrary white-dominant standards of occupying space; as if the bridges we are supposedly burning were ever even made for us and as if they do not burn us if we succeed on getting on them; and as if good physician-hood is defined by being compliant with a harmful system.

The pressures and consequences of speaking out in this institution are immense and unless we play the game, support for us is truly minimal. The administration and faculty –are more invested in the comfort of white students than they are in the well-being of students of color. Indoctrination into this system, where power is protected and white tradition is maintained, feeds this cycle.

White administration and faculty are invested in and socialized to protect white comfort. Admin and faculty of color, in attempts to navigate a space that is also toxic to them, invariably gate-keep and uphold the status quo. The overall effect is that students of color are not accounted for at UW SOM. We are daily aggressed and dehumanized yet we are expected to bear with it and be silent for the sake of white comfort and professionalism.

Paul Ramsey–current dean of the UW SOM and CEO of UW Medicine–has been a key leader in perpetuating the racism that exists at this institution. In 2016, students of color put out a call to action for the institution to address the racism in its curriculum, admissions policies, faculty development workshops, and student support practices. At the urging of students, Paul agreed to a written and spoken mandate to work with “interested students, faculty, staff, and community members to take active steps to creating an anti-racist medical institution” that “acknowledges the histories and experiences of people of color, teaches about health inequalities and social determinants of health, and enables marginalized folks to thrive at this institution.”

Ramsey’s first steps following that call to action was to implement an anti-racist action committee that ironically excluded key students of color who had first organized this call to action. After “benevolently” giving a charge to the committee to solve the school’s racism issues, he stepped aside for others to do the work. Under this benevolently oppressive leadership, the other deans of this school have then been woefully ineffective.

For example, Leo Morales, the chief diversity officer has minimal relationships with students of color here and lacks the skills to direct anti-racism efforts–meaning even the diversity center in the medical school is not always a safe place for us. Suzanne Allen, the vice dean of academic, rural, and regional affairs still seems to struggle with the concept that students of color are more disadvantaged than white students and that equity requires resources to be divested from the privileged and re-invested in the marginalized.

Anne Eacker and Raye Maestas, the deans of student affairs, despite hearing scores of traumatic stories from students of color, still coddle this institution and yet somehow come back to voyeuristically ask students for more stories and more labor about how to improve the learning environment. Michael Ryan, the dean of curriculum, while being in this position for a few years, has somehow remained ignorant of the concerns students have brought up and embodies to a startling degree the institutional amnesia that this school has around its racist practices. Meanwhile in maintaining silence and seeming passivity, Paul Ramsey acts as warden of a medical industrial complex where, instead of guns, students are armed with biases that kill patients of color, especially those who are Black, trans, queer, Indigenous, immigrants, Muslims, and or disabled.

To break this cycle of silence and harm, I am hosting a sit-in at the Health Sciences Building at the UW SOM. The silence and deflection around the toxic racial climate at this medical school is unacceptable. For an institution that claims as its mission is “to provide service to underserved populations” and to embrace “inclusiveness, equity, and awareness”, it is unacceptable that students of color are suffering here.

It is unacceptable that our histories and our communities are discounted and marginalized despite the countless hours of labor we spend trying to change this. This school wants us for our bodies and not for our minds. We should be celebrated for our core values, for the experiences we bring, and for the communities we uphold.

Instead, we become numbers that fill up diversity quotas. This dehumanization is unacceptable and I ask members of the community who are invested in the health of marginalized populations to join me in holding this school accountable. I ask the city of Seattle and the Washington State legislature to hold this school accountable. I ask the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Medical Association, and the National Medical Association to hold this school accountable.

I ask the Liaison Committee on Medical Education to hold this school accountable. And finally, I ask those in power at the University of Washington School of Medicine to hold themselves accountable for the pain that students of color endure at this institution. This climate of violence and terror must end.

Featured image DJ Martinez

55 thoughts on “The Silence Here is Deafening – And It Kills”

  1. As a disabled, longtime UWMC patient – and in a previous life a medical school lecturer – the institutional issues the author describes are very real, and his efforts to change them deserve widespread community support. He is taking real professional risks in daylighting this. He and his fellow POC med students should be honored and supported or that.

    That said, a LOT of context is missing here. For example, virtually every graduate and professional school at UW – as with most other large US universities – has seen student organizing against exploitation of their work. The exploitation described here can’t be separated from that struggle.

    More broadly, in this entire article there is only one, deeply buried nod to “socioeconomic factors” in health care which the author seems to conflate with institutional racism. That’s simply not accurate.

    The United States, alone among wealthy countries, maintains a health care system centered on the notion of the human body as a profit center. From med schools to doctors to clinics and hospitals to medical supply companies to Big Pharms and health insurers and so much more, everyone gets a cut, extracted from anyone seeking treatment – whether it’s a wellness checkup or a life-threatening illness. Should he finish med school, the author will have a chance to profit handsomely from this system, too.

    Health care costs in the US correlate most closely with what the market will bear, which is a combination of class and desperation. Each year, something like a million people in this country die prematurely or needlessly because poor, working, and even middle class people struggle to find the money to address health issues. Mortality rates due to the nature of our system are, indeed, a lot higher among POC – but personal wealth, or lack of it, is by far the biggest determinant. That’s a long way of saying our medical system needlessly kills a lot of poor whites and other non-blacks, too.

    The struggle for racial justice is critically important – but in health care especially, where the sole bottom line should be keeping people alive and healthy, racial justice can’t and shouldn’t be separated from the struggle to transform our uniquely classist health care system. I’d bet a lot that THAT isn’t being taught at UW, either.

  2. It’s true! This school is completely racist. As a middle eastern student, They did not accept me after interviewing me multiple times when I had better grades, MCAT scores, extracurricular activities, and interview skills than most other students.

    They told me in my exit interview that “it’d be better to try again, but we’re confused because the interview seemed to go really well based on the notes I’m reading.”

    This school is a mockery and a complete hypocrisy.

  3. Thoughtful piece but would like to see more clear examples of racism at UW SOM. Yes there is a history of racism in just about every profession and the syphilis case sounds terrible but medicine seems crowded with “studies” where treatment isn’t administered either because it doesn’t exist or because they wanted to investigate side effects. If there was a number thrown up about the proportionality of studies were minorities were chosen to study the side effects of illnesses as opposed to caucasian subjects, that would be helpful to see.

  4. Thank you Ohenewaa for sharing these words. As a current UW grad student hoping to enter the public health department, I am angered and not surprised to hear that there’s a complete absence of social contextualization of medical issues. I sit wholeheartedly with you and other SOM students demanding change.

    1. Right? I cannot get past the rhetoric here to figure out if anything even happened. I do know that this student has very limited respect for their fellow students after protesting and interrupting the white coat ceremony at UW. This is a ceremony designed to honor medical students for their hard work and sacrifice in front of their friends, family and supporters – instead this writer made the ceremony about themselves and their beef with the school and faculty. Very disappointing. Even if there is a real problem and a real message that needs to get out here, these methods and this speech is quite arguably, very counterproductive.

    2. Thank you for standing up! I was at the UWSOM 35 years ago and it did not seem that racism was a problem since there was only a handful POC in our class. Certainly sexism was. Multiple examples of it.
      We had to strip down on the first day of anatomy class so that the prof could show the boys how to listen to the heart of a classmate with large breasts.
      I had children while in school and was never given any kind of break, yet Dan Dornick, football player for the Seahawks, was given enormous amounts of free time and extra help.
      The men in class threw an all male bachelor party for one of the guys and had underaged strippers present. When we found out the dean simply said boys will be boys.
      Two male attendings photographed my underwear in a locker while I was in scrubs and showed it around to other men in my presence.
      Many more stories.
      The types of behaviors in our academic institutions that perpetrate racism, sexism, or any other biologic prejudices in favor of white males is despicable. I will never give to alumni funding due to my experiences there.

    1. I think its interesting how the term is “social justice warrior” has a negative connotation to you. You think it is a bad thing to care about social justice? This reminds me of how individuals who stood up against the nazi’s were called “jew lovers”. Like that is supposed to be a bad thing? It says a lot about you. If I had to give you a diagnosis, I would you suffer ignorance, stupidity or general pieceOfShit-ness. Or maybe a combination of those conditions.

      1. I believe in equal justice. Don’t you?

        But I’m obviously a Nazi. I voted for Hillary after all.

  5. A shakedown. It’s obvious. Not one thing that supports POC are being discriminated against. Instead it is obvious she is angry that there isn’t more favoritism being shown to POC. She complains that money going to whites could be going to “more marginalized” people. “Marginalized” is now a racial code word for the lefts favored racial and religious group. This is exactly why Trump is President and why Moore won the white vote in Alabama- racism and white supremacy now means anytime resources aren’t being directly almost entirely to the lefts favored groups while others are short changed.

  6. Dear Disgruntled,
    Reading through this attack against the University of Washington School of Medicine was almost as painful as witnessing your attempt to defile the White Coat Ceremony on the 11th of Dec. 2017. I actually had to leave towards the end of your tirade shortly after you demanded a $500,000 ransom from the UWSOM to support your cause. I was sickened at what I had just witnessed. You taking over the stage with other protestors with signs that read “this curriculum kills patients,” “Patients are dying because of UWSOM,” ” Racism Kills,” “Racism Lives Here.” You prevented families that traveled a long ways to take photos of their children in this once in a lifetime moment. I ended up sprawled over the toilet vomiting. I wasn’t the only one that felt ill. There was an elderly man in the bathroom that was clearly upset and appeared to be hyperventilating. I asked him if he was ok? Turns out he was ok but for a moment, I thought he was going to need some medical attention. He was a white man. One has to wonder, would you have helped him? You seem to have a lot of animosity towards white people.
    One thing I have noticed is people like to qualify their opinions by virtue of their “intersectional” group identities. So I will do that too. I am a POC from a marginalized community. I am not queer, though I have many friends that are. So I guess I am knocked down a notch on the hierarchy of oppression. I have faced and lived through actual racial violence in both physical and verbal forms. I lived through actual institutionalized discrimination. So I was interested in what you had to say. Sadly after hearing you speak, my conclusion was that you didn’t have any concrete instances, mostly just emotion. As someone who has actually been physically attacked due to my skin color, I do not take kindly to someone else appropriating the term racialized violence when you provided no concrete evidence of such.
    I wanted to believe in your cause but in the absence of any concrete evidence I am forced to entertain the idea that your so called leave of absence may be more a failure to succeed in the program. I hope my mind can be changed with concrete examples rather than personal attacks and long convoluted and vague accusations. As someone who has experienced racism, I can describe in detail in a few short sentences what happened to me. After reading your long letter and listening to you talk, I still am wondering what racial violence you speak of ???
    I have met and spoken with several of the individuals that you mention in this written attempt of public defamation. I have to say that I totally disagree with the portrayal you have put forth. These individuals are some of the most fair, dedicated and non-racist people in the UW system.
    As a POC I am acutely aware and highly suspicious of when minorities use the infamous “race card” as an excuse for failure. I wonder why you took a leave absence, maybe you are just flunking out. I hope you find a legitimate way to succeed. I understand that the school cannot and should not comment on your academic record.
    As a POC I was embarrassed and ashamed to be a minority on that special night on Dec 11, 2017.

    1. POC’s like yourself, are just if not more complicit in upholding the very systems of oppression that this student is writing about. Do yourself a favor and educate yourself before attacking someone for speaking the truth and their truth. If you’ve experienced racially charged physical violence yourself, aren’t you perpetuating the same racial violence on an emotional level by not validating the racially charged experiences of this student? They did give plenty of curriculum class examples here. Racial violence can take physical and emotional forms you know and neither is worse than the other, as they both feed into each other as she mentioned here “For example, racial discrimination in housing, employment, college education, insurance access, and documentation status result in higher rates of morbidity from cardiovascular disease and diabetes among Black, Native American, and non-white Latinx communities – and these higher rates are further informed by explicit and implicit racism by medical practitioners who interact with patients from these communities.” In your dismissive assessment of this student’s experiences, are you being any different than the attacker who deemed you less than and racially violated you? You clearly have a lot of learning to do about the history of medicine and public health in America and you can start by reading Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
      by Harriet A. Washington. Happy reading!

      1. “POC’s like yourself”

        Here we go, denigrating POC who refuse to follow the SJW political line.

    2. Wow, I couldn’t agree with this response more. As a UWSOM graduate, the means by which you sought to protest were entirely disrespectful and out of line. I can think of so many examples of the way either my classmates or myself brought up issues to administration, and how they were always heard with an open mind and with genuine attempt at resolution.

  7. What a load of garbage, and what a pathetic individual! I attended UWSOM, and this is absolutely inaccurate. Talk about overextension of outrage! This guy is going to struggle for the rest of his life, and none of it will be because of true racism or social injustice.

  8. My heart goes out to you. When I was a UW student 30 years ago, sometimes I made it through a class only by crossing out the universal male pronouns in my textbook. Today I look back on college as, at times, something to get through so I could do my job. Please make it through, even if it means choosing your battles. You can’t reform people who aren’t interested in changing, but you can become a doctor who would never diagnose a child with ODD, and who educates parents and teachers and colleagues. You could write tutorials about the healthy and necessary role of defiance and opposition in oppressed children’s lives. Don’t give the non-responsive ones too much of your valuable energy and power. Wishing you all the best.

  9. Ohenewaa Nkrumah’s viewpoint is called Critical Race Theory. It posits all inequality is due to racism, and that since white people benefit from racism, they unconsciously contribute and perpetuate it. This means all whites and those who identify with white culture (such as George Zimmerman) are racist.

    Seattle is indeed a predominately white city. I would go insane here if I believed in Critical race theory, because every time I interacted with a white (or white-acting) person, I’d see a giant “R” on their forehead.

  10. I’m glad that you bring this up so that we can continue to work on these problems. I wish I could know more about the specific incidents that occurred.

    1. Also, it makes me sad that you have to face aggressive and dismissive attitudes even though this has clearly hurt you. Know that a lot of people are on your side, especially your other UWSOM classmates!

  11. From a comment on my newsfeed: “If you feel so strongly about the importance of students’ awareness of this, host an additional after-class discussion! Or petition for a course on this to be created.” I hope OP’s considering these options as well, tackling issues like this often requires a multi-pronged approach.

  12. I just wanted to tell you how brave you are to stand up for our communalities. I went to the UW School of Social work and had the same experiences. I also work for the UW system and its the same there. There is a group of us working on this end of the spectrum to address those same things you addressed in your writing.

  13. I attended the UWSOM, earned my medical degree, am a POC, and never once….ever…experienced a single moment where I (or any other person of color) was discriminated against because of the color of my skin. In addition, I witnessed on numerous occasions so-called “privileged” white males being criticized and reprimanded by instructors who were also white. While I cannot claim that there is NO racism at the school of medicine, I can state unequivocally that the claims made in this article are, at least, 99.9% false.

  14. As a POC who attended, and graduated from, the UWSOM, I can say that I have never witnessed a POC being discriminated against….ever….at the UWSOM. Furthermore, I have seen on numerous occasions so-called “privileged” white male students criticized and reprimanded by white male instructors. While I cannot say for certain that NO racism exists within the UWSOM, I can say that in my 4 years there, I did not experience it or witness it. I would say that the most unfair treatment that I have witnessed in medical school was directed at white students, who were wrongly blamed for doing something that they didn’t.

  15. To the author:

    I salute your courage. I am a doctoral-level social worker, working in medical field. I can totally understand your frustration. What you describe here is the problem on the system level – so abstract so that some other “POC” students can’t even follow you.

    My suggestion is: if next year you are willing to go back to complete your program, then, write everything down. Keep day-to-day journal, documenting all the interactions you observe or hear. Make it a big ethnography project. We need evidence to show people that how these little things – or a lack of them – everywhere in the US medical training, can accumulate and end-up doing a disservice to marginalized population. With multi-year ethnographic notes, you can easily publish your articles in top-tier medical journals, and use them for policy changes. If you have a hard time writing those papers, then find colleagues in social work or anthropology or other social/behavioral sciences who share the same cause with you.

    I know it would be very painful in this process. But it would be very sad if we lose another physician like you in the future. If you want, please talk to people in social work during your break year. Or take classes in social sciences (i.e. research methods). A lot of things need to be changed in medicine, and there are many ways to make the changes. However, quitting may not be an ideal one.

      1. It doesn’t have to be autoethnography. 😄 If we believe that what the author described is more prevalent or universal, the author just need to go out and talk to different students/faculty members/administrators. Of course ethnography can give us more in-depth data about how things evolve and how people involve make meanings out of them. As long as the ethnographer follows the “best practices” the data collected from this project, albeit its smaller sample size, can still prove valuable insights about how things happen……

  16. This is the exact experience we Black med students have on a daily basis across the country. Our silence/deference gets us across the finish line. Speaking out puts us on the path to not finishing and jeopardizing a career in medicine. As my black physician mentors tell me everyday you enter the hospital and/or school treat it like a battle zone and be aware you’re surrounded by enemy fire. You are extremely brave and know your piece is being discussed by like-colored individuals who are both scared for your future now that you’ve come forward, but admire your courage.

  17. I thought the article was a brilliant analysis of how insidious racism can be in our intellectual communities, and apparently particularly those this community supposedly committed to healing. No concrete examples?! There were multiple examples explicitly detailed. I can imagine being at the celebration and feeling disappointment at it not meeting my expectations, but clearly much more is at stake than celebrating when those who attend that medical school are legitimately not able to share in the celebration. I join with the voice that hopes that your strength and brilliance will carry you through, that you will indeed finish and bless the world with your gifts. You are needed. Carry on..

  18. I think it’s naive to think these experiences are unique to UW SOM. I went to medical school in North Carolina and just finished my residency in Pennsylvania and institutional racism and bias was not, in my opinion (I’m a woman of color) unique to either one, but neither was it pervasive.
    Things like Black kids get diagnosed with ODD while ADD goes to the white kids is a universal truth of the field of medicine as it stands. The reason is well illustrated in this student’s essay, white coats used to belong in white people, some of which wrote textbooks, some of which were racists. The same instituional bias is present in law, which has ended up criminalizing so many Black individuals, and in business, and I’m housing etc.
    Im actually a little but appalled that this student is just now discovering these facts of life in America. I believe the answer not to be to disrupt white coat ceremonies, but to get to positions of influence in our fields and break the mold, be the face of change and promote diversity and equality, to inspire those who come after us, all, white, black and brown, to work together on this.
    I do believe this student’s heart was in the right place, but the pseudo tantrum method won’t amount to much and if anything it discredits the student and the cause.
    Hope you read this. Best of luck and get out there and do work to inspire.

  19. I am so sorry that you experienced this there. I have worked on a project there for the last two years and I see some of what you are talking about and it saddens me greatly. Did you speak at the Mind, Brain and Behavior Block sesson? I witnessed a student speak there and quit the school at that time. I heard you speak. My love and prayers up for you and all of the students who have experienced these things.

  20. The author is bringing up a lot of important points that should’ve been discussed already and acted on. As a POC I can understand and personally relate to instances of institutional racism and bias. HOWEVER, quite frankly, this is done quite poorly by the author and this movement. It is a missed opportunity that seems to feed the bubble form which it was born. A bubble with ideas that many outside of which would agree would and could be recruited to put pressure on the administration. Unfortunately, that has all been gone to waste. The rhetoric, methods, language, and communication (or lack therof) with the rest of the student body (POC, LBGTQ, white, etc.) has made it impossible to build a movement outside of those that already agree with the author. This is disheartening because so much could come of this.

  21. I am a black physician currently in residency and I am disappointed at this poor piece. Reading between the lines, I saw a writer with deep personal internal struggles that are so rampant, that endless issues would be found in almost any institution they may come across. I have faced fairness and unfairness, discrimination and favor in life but this article is not the right way to address them. Many things were over the top – for example: “As a Black student, I often feel like I am being taught to kill the very patients I came into medicine to serve.” Are you seriously really being taught to actively KILL all your future black patients? Stop, calm down, be fair and realistic.

    I can confidently say that I can’t expect the world to talk about race in every discussion. And that’s fair. It would be exhausting if race talks pervaded my daily personal and professional life. No medical school professor or physician is REQUIRED to mention race when teaching about ODD. It would be great if they did, but they are not lacking (or racist) if they don’t. I went to an extremely welcoming relaxed awesome diverse medical school with no issues of discrimination and my excellent black professor did not mention race when teaching us about ODD. She taught us the medical and psychological definitions of ODD, and taught us well. She taught us to be open to the epidemiology and now I can recognize it in a black, white, mexican, asian etc kid easily. I can glean which races are more affected than others, figure out why this happens, and mold my medical practice accordingly.

    Calling out all admins at the institution was disrespectful and unprofessional. Everything said about each one of them was emotional. I read a comment about the racial protest that happened at the white coat ceremony and felt sorry that that the entire medical school and their extended families had to witness that. I worry about this writer’s success in residency, or as an independent future physician working in a hospital or clinic because race issues (or lack of people addressing race issues regularly, weather intentional or not) will pervade every inch of your world to a point where you would never be satisfied with anything. You would be amazed at how many non-blacks are not racist, and are open to learn about race and diversity. Articles like this would never help, but rather deter them.

    I am sorry for your frustrations, but I encourage you to take this time off to reflect on life, be more open to the world and how it works, make a positive influence in a good respectful way, and find peace and joy in that

    1. Thank you for writing this, it was well said and comes from an honest place. I’m a POC and I am also currently a student at the UWSOM. I have to agree with a lot of people that I have not experienced or witnessed any of these exaggerated situations. I do not think that they don’t exist, or that there isn’t injustice, but it’s imoortant to remember that there are countless people, of all skin colors, working to bring equity. Unfortunately actions and protests such as this tend not to help the cause, but rather delegitimize the reasonable actions taken every day by others.

      1. The University of Washington accepts Black students into its programs with the expectation everyone will keep silent and accept degrading and humiliating behavior as part of a tacit agreement to earn a degree from its programs. No one should ever sacrifice their mental health or their cultural upbringing for a college degree. Ever. It’s sad and dangerous to hear from other students of color who blame their peers for “causing problems” because they have the courage to defend their rights and the rights of others. To those sad, yet brainwashed individuals who enjoy their social privileges with whites, remember: If it weren’t for the bold actions of “troublemakers” such as Larry Gossett, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Stokely Carmicheal then you would not attend the University of Washington or any “mainstream” university at all.

    2. This post fits the Merriam-Webster definition of condescending– showing or characterized by a patronizing or superior attitude toward others. Please enlighten yourself and get out of your comfort zone in order to grow by accepting a residency program outside of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest Region to fully understand the University of Washington operates inside its own comfortable bubble. Better yet, join Doctors without Borders and learn about this great big world of ours.

  22. Thank you for sharing this. As a black first year medical student in PNW, I’ve already felt a lot of this and it was helpful, painful, yet inspiring to read your words. Thanks for all the work you do. Know that you got people in Oregon in solidarity. Take care of yourself fam.

  23. All I can do for this person is to not be a racist myself and to treat each person based upon their intentions and behaviors.

    I could tell the author that one doesn’t always get a fair shake; that even white males occasionally are not treated well, and that whining about it won’t helpyou, or others like you.
    I know. I’ve tried whining. It doesn’t help.
    Only achievement-in-the-face-of-adversity will bring peace to your soul. And only achievement-in-the-face-of-adversity will change people’s views of you and yours.

  24. A few years back, I attended the baptism for my dear friend’s new baby. Her father was a minister in that denomination, and had sometimes been the minister at the church, to cover holidays,etc.The baptism was announced in the church notices and was planned as part of the Sunday service, as is the practice at that church. We are also Indigenous, including my friend and her father, the minister. My friend had planned for Indigenous honour songs and blessings, as was also the practice of her father, the minister. I’m not a Christian, but I respect my friend and her family’s faith and her happiness at merging the Indigenous and the Christian at her baby’s baptism. Well, you would think we had committed a crime the way many in the church reacted that day. At first a few loud hurrumphs, followed by louder ones yet. And then people saying things like, “OMG, when is this going to be over,” and what we were doing wasn’t Christian. Some people left in the middle of the baptism, making it obvious that they were leaving because of us and our Indian ways. Now, was that racist? Of course it was – and that was a nice middle-class, affluent church, in case you think it was some farm folk. Face it – you culture is racist. It is based on racism. You have to interrogate that – from top to bottom. Being left out of the story of disease or pathologizing our lives is racist. Does that make you bad people? Well, holding on to your presumed superiority makes you complicit in perpetuating racism. This experience I offered is pretty mild compared to what I and my relatives and friends have experienced – but I wanted to show that even nice, church-going progressive people (this was a “progressive” faith) harbour indifference and outright hostility toward non-white people. It was just a baptism and it was just maybe 20 minutes out of their life and these people couldn’t even respect that, couldn’t even respect a baby’s baptism because they didn’t see themselves in those 20 minutes. So imagine how we feel when we aren’t represented in curriculum, etc. So sorry you had to endure this, Ohenewaa Nkrumah. All the best.