Penn Medicine's Commitment to Taking Steps to a More Inclusive and Just Community

June 15, 2020

The past few weeks have been traumatic, especially for Black faculty, students, and staff who live every day with the burden of racism. The recent protests for racial justice have inspired unprecedented solidarity and the opportunity for our entire community to commit to actions that will have a lasting effect.

As we plan our next steps together, we continue to seek broad input which honors and includes the perspectives of the diverse voices in our community. Together, we will listen, learn, and lead. We will implement rapid actions and develop strategies that will have a sustained impact on our culture and our community. These efforts can no longer wait. Future generations require our action.

We want to thank all of those who have spoken out, protested, shared your experiences, formally and informally, and who have reached out to us personally and as part of groups across Penn Medicine. Thousands of Penn health care workers listened intently to a heartfelt message and call to action from Dr. Florencia Greer Polite on Franklin Field. Together, we shared 8 min and 46 seconds of silent reflection about George Floyd and his death under the knee of someone sworn to protect him. We remembered that this horrific act occurred against a backdrop of more than 400 years of oppression and discrimination.

We also want to thank University Provost Wendell Pritchett, Perelman School of Medicine Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity Dr. Eve Higginbotham, and the panel of speakers on last week’s Community Dialogue on Racism, Racial Justice and Social Equity. Everyone candidly shared their personal experiences and their hopes for the future. Our sadness and outrage has grown as we have listened to these powerful stories, and we are reminded that our own institution has contributed to perpetuating these longstanding injustices. For those of you who were not able to join us, we encourage you to watch the replay of last week’s event online.

Penn Medicine will no longer tolerate injustice in our culture. These actions are not only wrong; they are holding us back. These traumas have permanent effects on those affected, change team dynamics, impair creativity, reduce productivity, and harm patient care.

In order to make meaningful change, we need a coordinated approach that encourages participation and embraces perspectives from individuals and groups throughout our institution. The Penn Medicine Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID), in partnership with leaders and representatives throughout Penn Medicine, is launching a strategic engagement and action process. It will include multiple opportunities for additional community input, including a series of focused town hall meetings, the development of goals and specific action items, and a scorecard with measurable accountabilities to advance our next steps and ultimately achieve a more inclusive and fair community. A draft outline of the strategic plan will be communicated and posted on the OID website by June 30 for stakeholder input and comment before it is adopted.

However, time is of the essence and now is the time for action.  We agree that the first step is awareness of our individual contributions to an unsupportive culture.  Thus, as of June 15, we are directing every executive, department chair, and manager to undergo implicit bias training in the next 3 months.  By the end of the next 6 months, every Penn Medicine employee, student, and trainee will also participate in this critically important training.  This is only a first step of many more actions to come. 

We will share more about our planned next steps soon. We are grateful for your shared commitment to this movement, and we expect everyone in our institutions to rise to these profound challenges and to seize the opportunity for change.

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

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