Madison medical professionals have organized a “White Coats for Black Lives” rally and call to action for this coming Saturday.
“As healthcare professionals we are trained to save lives – and watching his life slip away with no regard…” Dr. Jasmine Zapata said, pausing and stating that it was hard to start her shift after watching George Floyd’s death on video.
“When George Floyd yelled out ‘I can’t breathe,’ we heard you and we are here. Even though we were too late to save your life we are here to save the lives of others.”
The rally starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 13 at the Madison state Capitol and is led by the Student National Medical Association of UW-School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH).
It is a kick off of the new local chapter of the White Coats for Black Lives (WC4BL) organization which aims to eliminate racial bias in the practice of medicine and recognize that racism is a threat to the health and well-being of people of color, according to a UWSMPH SNMA student news release.
Speakers will include medical students; Lilada Gee, founder of Lilada’s Living Room; Dr. Alex Gee, pastor and founder of Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development; Alia Stevenson, chief programs officer at the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness; Gina Green-Harris, director of the UWSMPH Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships in Milwaukee; Dr. India Anderson-Carter; Dr. Jasmine Zapata; Dr. Patrick Lee and more.
Speakers will share lived experiences and talk about ways to move forward and heal together, Zapata said.
“The whole concept is moving from simply photo ops and kneeling to an actual charge for action,” Zapata said. “And one of the first things you can do to take action is listen and learn. So health care professionals are coming and standing in solidarity against police brutality, racism and injustice but the key portion of this event is going to be the audience listening to Black community stakeholders.”
Organizers are asking attendees to wear white coats (if applicable), wear masks and practice social distancing. Zapata said as medical professionals who are surrounded by the struggles and seriousness of COVID-19 each day, this cause is greater than that.
“There is a hope for the future that we might be able to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. There is no vaccine that has been created in the last 400 years to combat racism,” Zapata said.
“As a Black physician I definitely have considered deeply the impacts of me marching and participating in these civil actions in light of COVID-19, however, I am personally more afraid of the long-term impacts that racism has on myself and my family and my community than I am of COVID- 19. So for that cause I am willing to take that risk,” she later added.
Zapata said it has been an honor mentoring the students who lead this charge and she is very proud of the WC4BL members, who are the next generation of medical professionals. There were eight students, who organized the event in a week’s time, Zapata said.
In the spirit of the actions speak louder campaign, the WC4BL chapter will be presenting a petition and a call to action to dismantle racism in the local health care systems.
“Racism is a crisis and public health emergency,” Baillie Frizell, rising M2 at UWSMPH, said.
A few examples of the calls to action include working with the administration on more support systems for Black students in medicine and to continue and increase recruiting efforts.
“I believe this is a great way to get the whole healthcare community involved in these efforts as well as use it as a time to educate and learn with my fellow future physicians on racial injustices in the healthcare system and how these issues pose problems for our future patients,” Frizell said in a news release.
For people who can not attend the 10 a.m. Saturday, June 13 rally at the Capitol, there will be a live streaming video of the rally and call to action on UWSMPH SNMA Facebook Page.