Moving Forward—COVID-19 and Systemic Racism

Moving Forward—COVID-19 and Systemic Racism

A message from Dean Patricia Davidson

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down, and the burden has been disproportionately met by people of color. The graphic acts of racism we have born witness to on television screens reflect the daily life of many in society—injustices through no fault of their own but the color of their skin. We need to acknowledge the pain, anger, frustration, and grief that so many are feeling at the moment.

As nurses and health professionals, we see first-hand the impact that systemic racism continues to have on health and wellbeing. As we begin another week, let us agree that we are going to push ahead and strive for social justice. This will be incredibly difficult for so many reasons, but individually and collectively we need to promise to make this happen. We have to commit to our post-COVID world being different. I commend many of you who are working hard to address the social, economic, and political structures that shape health inequities across the world and pray for your strength.

This commitment to change happens in so many ways, from the respect with which we treat anxious and frightened patients when they present to the hospital, through to our commitment to making sure our profession reflects the communities we serve. Every action no matter how small is going to contribute to a better world.

One such action occurred earlier today when Dr. Sarah Szanton, Endowed Professor for Health Equity and Social Justice, delivered the school’s inaugural Lavinia Dock lecture. The lecture was launched to honor those who advocate for health and social justice in remembrance of Lavinia Lloyd Dock, a nurse and social activist whose protest movements for women’s rights led to the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Little did we know that the lecture would coincide with the tragic death of George Floyd and the current events that have reminded us of the entrenched bias and structural inequalities across our country. The lecture and its timing highlighted that so much more needs to be done to move forward to inclusion and social justice within health care and beyond.

The news of George Floyd and the ever-present headlines around COVID-19 have further revealed the broad and open cracks in our society. Providing healthcare during this time requires focus and resilience. Let us join together in our commitment to not just providing excellent health care but striving for social justice.

Patricia M. Davidson
Dean, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing



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