Page 16 - RU RWJ Medicine Magazine • Winter 2021
P. 16

These troubling statistics have been proven The Robert Wood
by countless research studies by the Association of American Medical Colleges, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics, and others. The studies often control for underlying health factors and social determinants of health, but still present the same result: Black Americans have worse health outcomes than white Americans, demonstrating that systemic racism and implicit biases are prevalent in our health care system.
To create a clinical learning environment free of bias where all patients receive the same health care, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has created initiatives to address health disparities and biases in our own community, asking, what can we do to improve the health of all people?
A Plan for Change
The murder of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement came to the forefront
in 2020, spurring attention and support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The movement created urgency for Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s plan to combat racism, which was already in the works. Medical school leadership created a “Roadmap to Healing,” a series of anti-racism initiatives to implement change and become better allies.
Patricia Whitley-Williams, MD, associate dean for inclusion and diversity and professor of pediatrics, is leading this cause. Dr. Whitley-Williams shares that while combatting racism had been a priority for the past two years, the BLM movement inspired our community to acknowledge that racism is unfortunately part of the fabric of this country and must be confronted openly through discussions and reflections.
The plan includes working to create a community free of racism, implicit bias, and microagressions for faculty, staff, students, and most importantly, patients. A major
action item to complete this goal is to increase diversity of faculty and residents.
Dr. Whitley-Williams explains, “Research confirms that there are better health outcomes for Black patients when they are treated by Black doctors. People want doctors who look like them, and we want to be mindful and representative of the population we serve, which is diverse.”
With fewer than 5 percent of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School faculty being under- represented in medicine (URM), which is defined at our school as Black or Hispanic, the medical school has made recruitment of underrepresented faculty a priority.
Johnson Medical School community joined health care professionals across the country on June 5, 2020, for a moment of silent reflection and commitment to improve the health and safety of people of color—each one kneeling in support of patients, colleagues, families and friends.
Dean Robert L. Johnson, MD, FAAP, is the first Black dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and as the dean of Rutgers
New Jersey Medical School, he is also the first dean
to oversee two medical schools in the country. Dean Johnson stresses the importance of anti-racism not only
to make medical school a better place, but also to create equity for patients.
“As health care providers, we will continue to deliver care that mitigates disparities. As health educators, we will continue to produce health care providers who are aware of the impact which racism and poverty have on health. As researchers, we will continue to seek to understand disease processes in all populations. Together, we will continue to hold onto and further advance the spirit of caring for others that led us into this amazing profession,” Dean Johnson declares.
He continues, “Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is committed to recognizing and reversing disparities and inequities in our own community and the communities where our graduates choose to live and work and build upon this legacy.”
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