Juneteenth and Our Commitment to ACT for Social Justice

June 9, 2021

To:UPHS and PSOM Faculty and Staff

From:J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Kevin B. Mahoney

In observance of Juneteenth, the oldest holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, the Perelman School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania Health System will participate in a day of reflection on Friday, June 18. In honor of this holiday and as a reflection of our renewed commitment to enhance the inclusivity of our culture, we are asking our community to refrain from holding discretionary meetings, allowing faculty and staff space and time to reflect, facilitate group discussions, or participate in a service activity. In support of our shared pursuit of greater understanding and awareness, members of the Penn community are invited to join Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How to be an Antiracist” and “Stamped from the Beginning,” in conversation with Dr. Erika James, Dean of The Wharton School, for a commemorative event at noon on June 18.

Over the past year, we have continued to look inward to transform our culture across all our mission areas, and to enhance support for our students, faculty, and staff, as well as our patients and community. Following the murder of George Floyd, Penn Medicine came together during the White Coats for Black Lives protest and made a commitment to take the next steps toward becoming a more inclusive and just community. Since then, we have been inspired by palpable progress.

The Action for Cultural Transformation (ACT) has served as our guidepost and roadmap for change and will continue to do so for months and years to come. With more than 50 actions implemented and compelling mission, vision, and values established, there are now strategic priorities that outline that work that remains in the months and years ahead.

In the coming weeks, our ACT leaders Eve. J. Higginbotham, SM, MD, ML, vice dean for the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in the PSOM, and Dwaine Duckett, UPHS SVP and Chief Human Resources Officer, will share an update about our ACT progress to date, what the community can expect going forward, and how you can get involved in this transformational work. Among numerous other efforts, we committed to abandon the use of race in algorithms used to determine eligibility for kidney transplants in support of equitable care and minimized racial bias, and we administered more than 7,600 COVID-19 vaccines at mobile community clinics to ensure easy, equitable access to the vaccine for Black and Brown communities. We also appointed vice chairs for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in every clinical department, approved a $10M investment in support of five new CPUP Presidential Professorships and a new CPUP faculty Impact Fund, and accomplished our goal to complete Unconscious Bias Training, with nearly 45,000 employees taking the training.

While we have made progress, there is still significant work to do. The health equity gaps which have widened as a result of the pandemic across the country remind us of the need to remain steadfast in our commitment to take action. As a community, we can continue this transformative process by honing our cultural humility skills, which includes practicing reflective listening and asking open questions during every encounter. A transformation of this magnitude will take time and perseverance. We remain resolute in our promise to support this crucial work.

Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we continue to transform our culture and make change at Penn Medicine, in the communities we serve, and beyond.