‘It is time to rise up’: Faculty, staff, learners share perspectives during recent town hall

June 9, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees

Last Friday, June 5, faculty, staff and learners at Michigan Medicine came together for a virtual town hall on racial disparities and the organization’s current climate.

During the powerful discussion, presenters spoke of their experiences with racism and discrimination – both at Michigan Medicine and throughout their lifetimes.

“This conversation is about our entire Michigan Medicine community, which is now faced with recognizing and validating the experiences, the identities and voices of those marginalized,” said Erica Odukoya, a U-M medical student.

After outlining a few examples of racism that she and her peers had seen in their time in the organization, Odukoya made it clear that her intention was to use the experiences as a way for others to learn.

“I’m not here to chastise Michigan Medicine for what it did not do yesterday,” she said. “But to present a choice of what Michigan Medicine can do today and in the future.”

The guest speakers also included doctors, nurses and shared services personnel. The discussion was moderated by Dee Hunt, the organization’s chief human resources officer.

“Each and every one of us deserves an opportunity to leave in peace, find justice and be held responsible for our actions,” Hunt said. “In addressing this challenge, we must continue to stand together to face the change needed in our country, the state and Michigan Medicine.”

Steve Vinson, financial analyst, spoke about the need for everyone in the organization to speak up in the face of discrimination: “Regardless of color, a person exposed to racism is negatively impacted.” Therefore, the burden should not only fall on individuals of color to speak up.

To that end, the conversation included those of every racial background.

“We must acknowledge that racism can happen on our watch,” said Dana Habers, chief department administrator of radiology. “And for it not to, we have to act and intend otherwise.”

Finally, Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for medical affairs, dean of the U-M Medical School and CEO of Michigan Medicine, said that recent events should serve as a call to action.

“These recent episodes must bring us all together to have critical discussions about equity, humanity and the values that define who we are and what we will tolerate in our communities.”

Friday’s town hall was not the only event aimed at confronting racial disparities. The Black Medical Association also hosted a virtual protest with members of the organization.

In total, the hour-long event included numerous speakers and hundreds of viewers. Additionally, more than 1,300 photos of community members offering support were collected. See just a few photos from the event in the gallery below.

Finally, the Office of Health Equity and Inclusion hosted a Community Conversation that included more than 100 participants.

As Erika Newman, M.D. said, the week served as a time to come together: “We should no longer watch social justice from the sideline. It is time for us to rise up.”

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