Affirming Penn Medicine's Values Following This Week's Tragic Events

May 31, 2020

Dear Penn Medicine Colleagues,

Words can seem hollow when the same, or similar, messages are conveyed following seemingly endless tragic events. Yet, we still need words as well as action. George Floyd now joins the growing, and horrifically long list of African Americans, mainly men, who have been killed by those charged to protect us, or in other cases, by their neighbors.

George Floyd was born 10 years after the Civil Rights Act passed following the Freedom Movement and was killed a generation later. He will be known for how he died but we must also remember him as he lived, with family and friends, and as someone who supported the disenfranchised in his community. We also cannot forget the tragedy of Breonna Taylor, a budding health care professional, who was struck down in the middle of the night in her own home.  There are many other names that can be added to the list, an inventory of deaths that should never exist in a civilized and just society.

Collectively, we are shocked, frustrated and angered by these recurring manifestations of racism. However, for many of our faculty, students, and staff, especially those of color, these events hit especially close to home, triggering fear and recall of personal experiences of bias and racism. We want to explicitly acknowledge these experiences and express our support for you.

As physicians, scientists, and educators, we are in a position to lead. We have profound obligations to support diversity and inclusion within our communities – to our patients, to our students and trainees, and importantly, to one another. In our words and through our actions, we have power to make a difference in the fight to ensure that hatred, bigotry, discrimination, and racism have no corner in our community. We understand the importance of social determinants as they relate to health, education, and wealth. We continue to strive to fully understand the unfortunate role of racism and biases in health care disparities, ostensibly immovable barriers to achieving equity in health. At Penn Medicine, our code of professionalism, our commitment to inclusion, and our focus on optimal health for everyone, underpins our values and actions. Individually, we can also reflect on our own contributions to the current state and future solutions.

It is important for all of us – not just people of color – to step forward peacefully and demand a stop to senseless and immoral hate and violence against our fellow citizens. This was already a stressful time for everyone. These latest events add to this stress and open old wounds.  

This is a time to reaffirm our individual and collective commitments to justice, inclusion and equity both in health care and in the broader society. We stand together in this crucial work, and send our most heartfelt support and thoughts to those who are hurting today.

J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean, Perelman School of Medicine

Kevin B. Mahoney, Chief Executive Officer, University of Pennsylvania Health System

Lisa M. Bellini, MD, Senior Vice Dean for Academic Affairs

Deborah A. Driscoll, MD, Senior Vice President, Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania and Vice Dean for Professional Services, Perelman School of Medicine

Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer

Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD, Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity

Suzanne Rose, MD, MSEd, Senior Vice Dean for Medical Education