A lecture series and mentorship programs are a few of the new initiatives the University at Buffalo’s Department of Surgery is launching this year to help address systemic racism and healthcare inequality.
Other initiatives include research opportunities for underrepresented students interested in the field of surgery and developing meaningful relationships in the Fruit Belt and Delavan-Grider communities, the two neighborhoods where U-B’s affiliate hospitals are located.
The initiative’s first public event, a Thursday evening lecture called ‘Beyond the Knife,’ runs as an annual event. UBMD President of Surgery, Dr. Steven Schwaitzberg said the medical community is heeding the call to create a more equitable and diverse world, through their initiatives.
“It so disappointing,” he said. “Just so disappointing that we are still dealing with this in a country founded on the principals that all people are created equal. Words are just not enough. At the end of the day as Karole said, we are what we do, far more than what we say, what we write on billboards, what we tweet, our memes, or our Facebook messages.”
Author, political activist and lecture Keynote Speaker, Dr. Cornel West said access to healthcare is one of the worst forms inequality in the United States.
“And the very fact that we can be the richest nation in the history of the world,” he said. “And still have so many of us of all colors, disproportionately Black, Brown and Indigenous, who don’t have access to high quality healthcare, that’s a major indictment on the country.”
On the subject of the COVID-19 vaccine and a perceived reluctance of the African American community to get vaccinated, West said that reluctance is due in part because of a long history of medical atrocities committed against African Americans.
“We know what white supremacy has done to Black people, in terms of its deeds, its practices, its distortions, its violations and so forth,” he said.
But by educating and outreach, West said Black medical professionals can do a lot to assuage vaccine fears.
“But we believe that it’s best for them and we have been willing to test it ourselves, before them,” he said. “We’ll put ourselves on the line, to take a risk that ourselves really constitutes what’s at stake. And them convey it to them and say, ‘oh lo and behold,’ we can show you.”
More information on the Department of Surgery’s initiatives can be found here.