The Family Physician’s Role in Dismantling Systemic Racism

As family medicine physicians and members of society, we grieve the death of George Floyd. His death, along with the deaths of hundreds of black people killed by police officers each year, is a tragic reminder of the unjust treatment of African Americans in our country. The protests across the world are a response to this event and the many injustices suffered by black people at the hands of institutions that hold power in our country.

As family physicians, we see the ways in which systemic racism affects our patients on a daily basis. We see how local disinvestment in safe roads, businesses, and fresh food markets affects our patients’ safety and health. We see the health effects of occupational work hazards and unequal housing opportunities. We see the increased police presence in neighborhoods of color and the disproportionate incidence of police brutality and incarceration. We see how the chronic stress of living in a racist society results in poor birth outcomes, increased infant and maternal mortality, and unacceptable disparities in life expectancy among black individuals. We have seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has unequally and unjustly claimed the lives of black people due to systemic racism in our healthcare system and communities.

We see all of these circumstances and more as the effects of systemic racism that plagues our society and institutions. We acknowledge that many of the advancements in medicine are predicated on the study and forced experimentation on unwilling black subjects. As individuals with unique privilege and power granted to us by those we care for, we must use our power to advocate for those directly harmed by systemic racism. We must specifically name the racist policies affecting black people across the country and speak out against them. If we hope to work in partnership with our patients and communities, we need to continually advocate for anti-racist policies. This will mean difficult conversations with our employers, colleagues, families, and friends. As a specialty, we are uniquely positioned to address the social determinants of health and racism as these factors affect the health and safety of our patients and communities. It is our duty to continually push for anti-racist policies in our communities and in the institutions we work for.

We want to acknowledge that this is only a piece in the on-going conversation being pioneered by people of color who have long been leaders in this fight. As white medical providers, we can only observe injustices which we have not directly experienced and do not wish to speak on behalf of any of our African American colleagues. Instead, we want to state that as IAFP Resident Leaders and your colleagues, we vow to continue to educate ourselves not only on the current injustices, but the history of injustice perpetrated by the medical community on black individuals and communities throughout our history. We vow to work alongside you, to continually work to understand and combat our own implicit biases, to learn and unlearn, and to help to leverage any resources possible in support of anti-racism.

We affirm that Black Lives Matter.  We invite resident members to complete our Resident survey to inform us of how we can work with and for you. 


Audrey Hertenstein Perez, MD PGY-2
IAFP Resident President 2020-2021          

Stefani Beard, DO PGY-1
IAFP Co-Resident President Elect 2021-2022

Eric Sullivan, MD PGY-1
IAFP Co-Resident President-Elect 2021-2022

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