It Starts With Us

Standardized tests were always the monkey on my back…
Despite good grades in medical school,
it took me three times to pass Step 1.

I didn’t have a single Latino role model or mentor.
On the first day of my OB GYN rotation,
I was mistaken for the housekeeper–
instructed to clean the delivery room.

After I witnessed the unethical transfer
of a migrant farmer,
I handed in my residency resignation…
but I came back, more driven.

Medicine’s past is filled with remarkable
innovations and discoveries.

But we need to acknowledge and apologize
for structural oppression, exclusionary practices.
We need to stop repeating
the harm we’ve caused for too long;
the harm we’re still causing today.

We all have a role and response-ability
in learning how to become anti-racist.
But we just don’t know how to do it.

Just because I’m a person of color
doesn’t mean I know how to do it.

Still, it starts with us.

We have to dismantle systemic racism
and prioritize equity expansion in medicine.

We have to do our part, as leaders, to be intentional;
to hold each other accountable for change.

We have to invest in our learners
instead of finding ways to weed them out.

We have to–
acknowledge what we don’t know;
acknowledge we can’t do it alone;
acknowledge that the communities we serve
…………already know some of the solutions–

Will we find the courage to ask?

I’ve worked my entire life
to disprove stereotypes
and free myself from feeling
like an imposter.

How will we treat our most vulnerable?

When will we truly become healers?

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

This poem was derived from a conversation via the podcast, “Behind the White Coat.” The episode touched on one leader’s journey to become a doctor, the AAMC history of racism, and current ways which the AAMC is committed to countering racism and expanding equity within medical education.

The leader being interviewed was a family medicine physician and DEI leader in the academic medical community. “Understanding and being sensitized to our own historical traumas informs present-day issues and realities we face,” he said. “From that place of understanding, we have to begin to own our history and carve out new ways to integrate antiracism into medical education,” he said. As a Latino person, he had experienced the impacts of racism and discrimination first-hand. This led him to build a career portfolio centered around health equity, population health and DEI education and training. He expressed that he believed if we’re going to dismantle systemic racism, we need transformative change and systems-based leaders who also inspire other leaders along the same route. “We have to be invested in the success of our learners, as an institution. If one student fails, then we have failed. This is the mindset we need to re-imagine medical education,” he said.

Interviewee: Anonymous, Administrator
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland

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