I wanted to follow up on my Dean’s Note from yesterday with further reflections, as the world continues to react to the events of the past 48 hours. We truly seem to be living in unprecedented times. While we are still coping with the coronavirus outbreak, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the public demonstrations expressing justifiable anger about their deaths, have once again pushed to the forefront the underlying problems of racism and social injustice that afflict this country.
I would argue, and have argued, that, fundamentally, the events of the moment reflect the same underlying concerns: a world that has long neglected to place social and economic justice at the heart of all it does, which has, as a result, compromised health, exposing us to risk during the pandemic. A world that has not grappled with racism, and hatred of the other, that countenances political action and messages that drive wedges between people. A world that has abandoned compassion that motivates structural change, embracing instead short-term charity that preserves power imbalances and preserves inequities. And that world right now feels on fire.
Driven by the egregious stories of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, fueled perhaps by a growing realization that the injustice of the moment reflects the core story of the Covid-19 era—a pattern of health inequities that has long been neglected now brought to the fore by a pandemic—the world is reeling, the public moment reflecting what we have long known to be true: a healthy world and a just world are inseparable.
It is at moments like this that I am, again and again, reminded of embracing of our core purpose. We as a school aim to improve the health of populations, the health of all. That means working to address the fundamental forces that shape poor health: racism, gender inequities, poor housing, unfair wages, violence. This is at the heart of all we do. It gives us purpose and motivates our relentlessness in our teaching, in our research, and in our activism, towards the goal of creating a fairer, healthier world.
Thank you all for what you are doing, what you do always. Please join us on Wednesday, June 3 from 5 pm – 6 pm EST for a conversation on race and policing, and on Tuesday, June 2 for our usual Covid-19 community conversation from 10 am – 11 am, when we can also talk more amongst ourselves about this and other items on our minds. And lastly, on Thursday, June 4, we will host the first of our three-part symposium about Teaching Public Health. The first discussion will be on Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Justice, a topic that was long planned about addressing these topics in the classroom, now made more poignant by the week’s events.
Thank you for joining me as we elevate the conversation and leverage our collective work to improve health, to allow health, for all.
Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH
Dean, Robert A Knox Professor