Elevating a Spirit of Hope and Perseverance Fueled by Action for Cultural Transformation (ACT)

By Eve J. Higginbotham SM, MD, ML Vice Dean for Penn Medicine Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity,   Dwaine B. Duckett MS, Chief Human Resources Officer, UPHS

May 25, 2022, marked the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. This milestone reminds us to reflect on the past two years and review the impact of the movement for change that this event inspired.

  Our nation remains divided. Some will not yet acknowledge that over 400 years of structural barriers continue to support social inequities in our society. Long-held beliefs and assumptions fuel persistent hatred. We see this in everything from misinformation about potential for high performance in the workplace based solely on skin color to the loss of lives far too early.

  Incidents of hate crimes have gone up in the last three years. These attacks can be prompted by sexual orientation and religion but are most often related to race, ethnicity, and ancestry. Coupled with our national gun-violence crisis, we are all witnesses to the grief associated with violent loss over and over again. In just the past few days, a gunman ended the lives of 10 Black Americans at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. A shooting at a Taiwanese American church in Southern California left one dead and five injured. In Uvalde, TX, a mass shooting killed 19 children and two adults in a Latino community.

  These tragedies affect each of us of us across Penn Medicine and our patients. Sometimes personally, sometimes in their roles as providers, caregivers, learners, trainees, or researchers. They may be carrying these images in their thoughts and actions during the workday. Acknowledgment, empathy and supportive, engaged discussion are powerful tools to unite and strengthen our Penn Medicine community. They reaffirm our commitment to deliver compassionate care and strive for inclusive excellence in everything we do.

  George Floyd’s murder launched the Penn Medicine Action for Cultural Transformation (ACT). The ACT strategy takes on structural racism and social justice at Penn Medicine. Over the last two years, we have begun to make progress by:

  • Making it easier to report instances of bias
  • Enhancing processes for promotions and advancement
  • Removing inappropriate paintings and other symbols of discrimination that conflicted with our principles.

In our most recent Diversity Engagement Survey more of us reported feeling respected than three years ago. These changes would not have happened without the work of hundreds of volunteers–your colleagues and peers who shared their ideas and time over the last two years. Please continue to report what you see and experience so that we can continue to build a more inclusive culture.

We have a long way to go before realizing our vision to become an anti-racist, equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization. Together, we remain as committed as ever to achieving this future. It is important to realize this is a long journey and maintain our focus on these issues. We invite all who care about upholding these core values to join us in the effort.

When asked what her message to young people would be, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson shared a single word. A word that was motivating and uplifting for her when she was going through a difficult time in college: “persevere.” The events of the last two years are reminders that perseverance and hope are keys to a better future.