MLK Day 2021: United

January 18, 2021

Dear Penn Medicine Colleagues,

Martin Luther King Jr. Day arrives at a critical juncture for Penn Medicine. The extraordinary events of the past year have created a rare opportunity to bear witness to Dr. King’s legacy and address structural injustice in our institution and in the communities we serve. We are well-positioned to do so. We are a community united by science and medicine’s call to service. The generosity, compassion, and drive that exists among our workforce is deeply engrained in every care interaction, discovery, and breakthrough that happens within our institution’s walls every day.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted and worsened long-standing health inequities, and this summer’s passionate demonstrations against racial injustice have aroused the conscience of the Penn Medicine community. The outpouring of solidarity so many of us experienced at The White Coats for Black Lives demonstration on Franklin Field and across the organization acted as a catalyst to address long-overdue change in health care. At Penn Medicine, it has generated the Action for Cultural Transformation (ACT) initiative. ACT is an engine for tangible progress, and today is an opportunity for all of us to reaffirm our commitment to its vision of uniting Penn Medicine as an anti-racist, just, diverse, and inclusive organization.

We are especially proud of the surge of grassroots activism that continues to expand in impact – from the Department of Medicine’s commitment to identify specialty-specific disparities in health outcomes and access, to the curricular changes being implemented in medical education, to the Alliance of Minority Physicians’ new campaign to recruit, retain, and engage diverse individuals at all levels of our organization. If you haven’t seen the recruitment video, we commend it to you as a superb reflection of our institutional culture.

We are making important strides. Our ambitious Unconscious Bias Training initiative has been an opportunity for all of us to look in the mirror and examine our own behaviors. We encourage you to participate through Knowledge Link, if you have not already done so. Among other initiatives underway, we are strengthening bias reporting procedures, expanding mentoring opportunities, and appointing additional Vice Chairs for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in our clinical departments. We are creating new pipeline programs in partnership with area schools to promote diverse hiring. We are strengthening access to care in West Philadelphia at Mercy Hospital and exploring needed changes to improve health in every community we serve.There is much more to do. Institutionalizing these and other efforts and implementing concrete strategies to accelerate change, soon to be announced in the ACT Roadmap, are at the top of our priority list for 2021.

Our goal is to make Penn Medicine a model to the health care community – as measured by our diversity, the inclusiveness of our culture, the respect we have for one another, and the progress we make in eliminating health inequities in our community.

It goes without saying that we are enormously proud of the distinction Penn Medicine has achieved in its clinical, scientific, and educational missions. But as Dr. King observed in his famous Drum Major Instinct sermon, the most important distinction is to be recognized for the pursuit of justice.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day strengthens our resolve to make Penn Medicine as inclusive and diverse a workplace as it can be and to be a beacon to peer institutions by combatting the inequities in medicine that contribute to disparate health outcomes in the communities we serve and across the nation. This is our shared charge and we are in a privileged position to make it happen. We appreciate your support and engagement in shaping the future of medicine.

J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD

Dean, Perelman School of Medicine
Executive Vice President of the
University of Pennsylvania for the Health System

Kevin B. Mahoney

CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System