Hundreds kneel at White Coats 4 Black Lives event

June 08, 2020

Image with caption: UNMC interim Director for Inclusion Sheritta Strong, M.D., kneels during Friday's event.

UNMC interim Director for Inclusion Sheritta Strong, M.D., kneels during Friday's event.

Hundreds of providers, staff, faculty and students from Nebraska Medicine and UNMC united in silence on June 5.

All across Nebraska Medicine/UNMC hospitals and clinics, colleagues knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds of silent reflection and commitment to improving the health and safety of people of color. It was part of a national campaign called White Coats for Black Lives. The observance took place at noon at hospitals and health clinics across the country in recognition of the death of George Floyd and continued racial injustice.

See photos from the event.

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Jasmine Marcelin, M.D., wipes away a tear during the event.

"We recognize that racism is systemic, so in order to change, you really need change to come from everyone in the community," said Helen Grace, D.O., assistant professor of pediatrics, who organized the event outside the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

"You can't put this on people of color to make that change. This is our job as a community. Every single person in the community can do work to understand what is systemic in and around the United States and in and around Omaha and everyone can work to do better."

Dr. Grace knelt in front of the Search Tower, surrounded by white coats, scrubs of every color and bright red UNMC/Nebraska Medicine Strong T-shirts. Hundreds of people took to their knees around the traffic circle and the crowd multiplied minute by minute, stretching along the sides of the cancer center.

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The observance took place at noon at hospitals and health clinics across the country in recognition of the death of George Floyd and continued racial injustice.

At the Fontenelle Health Center, staff kneeled with their fists in the air in a show of support. They wanted to send a message to their patients. People took part singly or in groups on other UNMC campuses, as well.

"We are North Omaha! Diverse but united!" said medical assistant Danna Jones after she took part with her colleagues.

Dr. Grace says this is just a start and there is interest in starting a local chapter of White Coats For Black Lives to help bring change. If people are interested in being a part of a local chapter, contact Dr. Grace via email.

Dr. Grace says the event aimed to show support for all Nebraska Medicine and UNMC colleagues. But as a pediatrician, she also had her patients in mind.

"These are little kids who are going to grow up and we want them to grow up in a more just society," she says. "We want to be part of that."

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Kristin Kramer
June 19, 2020 at 3:19 PM

Thanks for letting us donors know that there is an awareness that change must come...from every quarter of society. This makes us want to donate more because we have a higher level of confidence it will be distributed equitably.

Jen Bredehoft
June 08, 2020 at 3:38 PM

What a touching stand for change! Great work!!!!!

Anne Lawlor
June 08, 2020 at 11:46 AM

I stand - and will also kneel - with you.

Tom O’Connor
June 08, 2020 at 10:00 AM

What an awesome event! Great job of capturing it in words, photos and video.

Kaleb Michaud
June 08, 2020 at 9:37 AM

While I don't have a "white coat", I'm extremely proud of all of those who made this event happen (in the heat and pandemic!) and for our leadership for continuing to emphasize that Black Lives Matter! Our education continues and this will not be a one-and-done occurrence as we have to continue to work to help identify and reduce the inequities in our health systems, at all levels. Thank you all again - and a personal note of gratitude to Drs. Grace, Strong, and Marcelin!

Ken Zoucha
June 08, 2020 at 7:17 AM

POWERFUL!