Chair File: White Coats for Black Lives and Recommitting to Health Equity

Eight minutes and forty-six seconds. A lot goes through your mind when you stand or kneel in silence for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. You think about justice and injustice. About despair and struggle.

On June 5, I joined hundreds of my colleagues at Saint Luke’s Health System — and thousands more nationwide — as we stood and knelt together in silence for eight minutes and forty-six seconds and remembered George Floyd.

We thought about his pain and suffering, about those haunting images and sounds … of George, Breonna, Ahmaud, and countless others. And we grew more resolute in the cause. Together.

At each White Coats for Black Lives event our teams came together — masks and all — to show our solidarity behind a movement that fits with our mission of care. That fits with our values of protecting life. That fits with our humanity, plain and simple.

Some colleagues saw each other for the first time in months — happy to be reunited, but grieving for the reason. Some brought their children to show them how to raise your voice, or silence it, in honor of what really matters.

Some wept. Some hugged. And we all understood the importance of this moment and the responsibility we each have to stand tall on the right side of history.

Five years ago, I was proud to pledge that Saint Luke’s would do its part in the AHA’s #123forEquity Pledge — a coordinated national health care effort to address health care disparities for people of color.

And while we have made progress both in our greater Kansas City metro and on a national level … the events of these past few weeks have made it abundantly clear that we’ve only just begun.

And so I pledge again — with renewed energy — to work to address the critical issue of health equity facing too many of the patients and neighbors we care for and care about.

I urge you to redouble your efforts, too. The AHA and its Institute for Diversity and Health Equity have a number of resources to help you with your efforts and more resources will be coming soon. I look forward to our continued learning from each other as we build a better and more equitable system of care.

This long overdue change we see coming is welcomed. And as leaders, it falls on us to not only be ambassadors for that change but also to establish the framework for its success and give it the support it needs to catch on and spread.

So, while we celebrate the moments of unity and collective cause, let’s not forget about the real work that lies ahead, too. The hard, honest work of self-reflection and improvement.

I can see it happening, already, and I look forward to helping it grow.