June 01, 2020

A Special Dean's Message: Confronting racism—the country's systemic, pre-existing condition

Written by

The news of the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have brought forth expressions of deep anguish, fear, sadness, and rage in communities across the nation. In a city marked by a painful history of violence against black Americans, we here in Birmingham know all too well that these are continued examples of the racial injustices that have plagued our country since before its founding. Along with my leadership team and the SOM Office for Diversity and Inclusion, I want to acknowledge the immense impact these events are having on the members of our UAB SOM community.

We know that many of you are experiencing distress and fear for yourselves and/or your friends and loved ones. We encourage you to practice good self-care and to reach out to people around you to provide mutual care. For employees in need of mental and emotional support during this time, we urge you to connect with the Employee Assistance & Counseling Center (EACC). Students, you have a similar resource through Student Counseling Services. Also, don’t forget about the Well-Being Index, a tool that is offered to all employees and is a simple way to check in on your personal wellness.

As an academic medical center, we are working to identify and eliminate the disparities that exist in health care—be they racial, socioeconomic, or other. We know that they exist, and today, we publicly reaffirm our dedication to being leaders in the fight to dismantle those disparities, as well as in the struggle to address the impact of America’s painful, pre-existing condition: racism. We are working tirelessly to build a system that provides outstanding and equitable health care to all. During this difficult time, we are also asking you to strengthen your personal commitment to rooting out racism, oppression, and inequality in whatever ways you can. Remember that you have more power and influence than you might realize.

Below, you will find a list of a several (but not all) of the programs and organizations throughout the city and state that are working towards racial equality and justice. We encourage you to learn more about them and their unique missions, and to consider lending your support through donating, volunteering, etc.

ACLU Alabama – The ACLU Racial Justice Program aims to preserve and extend constitutionally guaranteed rights to people who have historically been denied their rights on the basis of race.

Alabama Appleseed – A non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1999 whose mission is to work to achieve justice and equity for all Alabamians.

Alabama Arise – A statewide, non-profit organization working to promote policies to improve the lives of Alabamians with low incomes, with a commitment to racial equity and inclusion.

Alabama State Conference of the NAACP – Ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

Birmingham City Office of Social Justice and Racial Equality – Through advocacy, engagement, and implementation, the Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity seeks to employ social justice as a core principle in City of Birmingham policies, operations, and decision-making.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – A cultural and educational research center that promotes a comprehensive understanding for the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham.

Equal Justice Initiative – An organization committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

Faith in Action Alabama – A multi-faith, multi-racial organization that works to honor God by achieving systemic change to create pathways of opportunity for all Alabamians.

Southern Poverty Law Center – An organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, while seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.

As the next few days unfold, we also ask that you recognize the overwhelming and disproportionate psychological toll these events continue to have on our black students, staff, and faculty, and we ask that you practice compassion and radical empathy towards your fellow colleagues and students.

Finally, let us work together daily to eradicate racism from our communities and to promote a healthy, safe, and just society for all.

In solidarity,

Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS
Senior Vice President for Medicine
Dean, School of Medicine

Anupam Agarwal, M.D.
Executive Vice Dean
Marie S. Ingalls Endowed Chair in Nephrology Leadership

Etty (Tika) Benveniste, Ph.D.
Senior Vice Dean for Basic Sciences
Charlene A. Jones Endowed Chair in Neuroimmunology

S. Dawn Bulgarella, MSHA, CPA
Senior Associate Dean for Administration and Finance
Chief Financial Officer, UAB Health System

Mona N. Fouad, M.D., MPH
Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

Craig J. Hoesley, M.D.
Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education
Chair, Department of Medical Education

Keith (Tony) Jones, M.D.
Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs
UAHSF President
Chief Physician Executive, UAB Medicine

Robert P. Kimberly, M.D.
Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research
Howard L. Holley Research Chair in Rheumatology

Jean Ann Larson, Ed.D.
Leadership Development Officer

David A. Rogers, M.D., MHPE
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Professional Development
Chief Wellness Officer, UAB Medicine

Toni Leeth, MPH
Associate Dean for Strategic Planning and Administration

Lakisha Mack, MBA
Associate Dean for Administration and Finance