A message from Dean Barbara Broome, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Over the past several days, we have witnessed an entire nation in despair—despair at the pointless deaths of many young black men and women killed for reasons we have difficulty understanding. We bear witness to what happens when people feel hopeless and helpless. It is ironic that the same prejudices, racism, and disrespect I experienced in my youth in the 60s seems to have come full circle. The frustrations, fear, and anger that simmered during the 60s and 70s have now reached a full boil, fanned by continuous disregard for the rights assured to all Americans under the Constitution. The cries of families as they as they say good-bye to those they love pierce the silence, much the same as they did in my youth when young blacks were killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We hear over and over again how the protests turned violent and should be peaceful. But we have also seen that attempting a peaceful display of protest is perceived as being disrespectful, and we see the repercussions on those who attempt to have their voice heard without violence.
We further watch as the racial disparities that exist impact the life expectancy of people of color. Healthcare disparities result in the development of co-morbid conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiac disease for minorities which have led to higher rates of death from COVID-19 than for the majority population. The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found in their comprehensive 2003 report that “...from the most simple medical procedure to the complicated, blacks and other minorities receive poorer quality care and less intensive care than whites.” The impact of these healthcare disparities is playing out right before our eyes. We only have to consider the death rates of blacks to whites in the current pandemic when examining deaths based on population statistics.
Let us live by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiples it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.” We are Golden Flashes, and I implore you to seek the truth. I implore each of you to look inward and see the power you have to make a difference through change. The College of Nursing prepares students who are not only well-educated in the principles of healthcare, but also serve as advocates for change. In Maya Angelou’s words: “We should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” Our work is to prepare future nurses who will work tirelessly to close the gap in healthcare disparities that have existed for too many years and be leaders for change in healthcare policy. We are the face of change which must be woven into the fabrics of all scrubs, whitecoats, and hospital gowns.
During challenging times such as these, I have watched and experienced enormous pride in the ability of each of you to come together for the good. I encourage you to continue to demonstrate your respect for others by actively working towards equity and justice. We all make a difference. I am counting on each of you to make the lives of our students and each other better through thoughtful and caring dialog, a willingness to delay assumptions about others, and a commitment to kindness and respect. To restate Dr. Diacon’s words: “We appreciate each of you and look forward to continuing the work of making our community equitable and inclusive for all.“