As July approaches, we look forward with anticipation to having new trainees and faculty join our community and our teams. It's always a time for excitement and for new beginnings. This year, our ability to join together to welcome people has been hampered by the need to continue with physical distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we need to be intentional about building a welcoming environment in our department.
The past month has also provided local, national and global evidence that we must do better in building inclusive communities that dismantle structural racism and challenge oppression. We need to identify, examine and unlearn hidden biases that impact our behavior without our conscious awareness. To help raise awareness of implicit biases and to learn steps to challenge these perceptions, our residents and fellows will be given the book, BlindSpot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald. This is just a primer for the work we will begin as a department to become actively anti-racist. I would invite faculty and staff to also read the book, if you haven't – and to suggest other books, as there are many important ones. Of course, reading doesn't solve complex issues, but it does open our minds to new ways of thinking and is part of the homework we can do to be prepared for the tasks ahead.
A committee is forming that will be convened by Chad Abresch, PhD, vice chair of Culture and Inclusion, and we invite faculty to connect to help develop our guiding statement of anti-racism and our 2020 action steps. As physicians, we can identify ways in which the U.S. health care system, and the community of medicine itself, fail our Black patients and colleagues. Disparities in health outcomes for patients and inequities in professional access and advancement for colleagues demonstrate ways in which medicine isn't living up to our professional ideals of respect, dignity, safety and teamwork. By working together we will be able to identify and impact changes that help to lessen the burdens of systemic racism. We commit to having the courage to acknowledge our own privilege, learning about our biases and blind spots, and listening to experiences that are different from our own.
Welcome, please join us, as we usher in a new academic year.
Kari A. Simonsen, MD
Chair of Pediatrics,
Professor, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases