fbpx Taking action against anti-Black racism | Faculty of Health Sciences | Queen's University | Faculty of Health Sciences | Queen's University Skip to main content

Taking action against anti-Black racism

I want to start this week’s blog by letting you know that I am spending a lot of time listening right now. Since the Faculty of Health Sciences posted a 4-part statement on Twitter condemning racism and violence against Black people and voicing our solidary with the Black community, I have heard from our community. I have received tweets and emails, and I have watched conversations unfold on social media.

Our community has voiced concerns. I have heard concern for our colleagues in FHS who are Black, and who may be feeling sadness, anger or despair right now. I have heard concern about our curricula, and whether it does enough to equip our students to challenge the systems that perpetuate anti-Black racism. I have heard concern about representation of racialized groups amongst our faculty members. I have heard concern for our staff, who also need to be supported in becoming allies. And I have heard concern that staying silent will not move us forward.

Our students have also been active on this. I have seen many of our students taking to social media to raise their voices. Just last night the Aesculapian Society published a letter denouncing anti-Black racism and laying out concrete actions that they will take as student leaders.

The current protests in defiance of anti-Black racism underscore the need for a commitment from institutions like the Faculty of Health Sciences to not simply stand in solidarity with the Black community, but to actively work to dismantle systemic racism. This is particularly important in a health and healthcare context. Our primary job, as a Faculty, is to train the next generation of healthcare professionals. And as such, we must prepare our learners to be leaders and advocates who are equipped to challenge racism in all of its forms, who understand that even today the colour of one’s skin can dramatically impact one’s health outcomes and who are motivated to work for change.

In the Faculty of Health Sciences, we take this responsibility seriously. And we have made some progress. 18 months ago, I struck a Commission on Black Medical Students to address the ban on Black medical students at Queen’s in 1918. The commission is chaired by our Director of Diversity, Dr. Mala Joneja, and its members include a diverse range of stakeholders that include staff, students and faculty members from across the university. The commission’s work has led to several initiatives beyond our public apology last April. Some have been actioned and some are on the way. They all aim to support our Black students and to bolster equity and inclusion within the School of Medicine. You can read more about what has been accomplished so far, and what is in progress here. As a dean, this has been the most meaningful work that I have participated in during my 10 years at Queen’s. It was an incredible honour when three representatives from the commission, Dr. Joneja, Mr. Edward Thomas and myself, were awarded the university’s Human Rights Initiatives Award in recognition of this work.

I know that there is more to be done. Here in the Faculty of Health Sciences, we have only just begun, but I can tell you that our three schools – Medicine, Nursing and Rehabilitation Therapy – are committed eliminating structural and institutional racism, and instead, building anti-racist structures within our institution. 

As we continue to engage in discussion and move forward with action, I would encourage you to continue to bring your ideas forward. Please continue to support one another, please continue to speak out against racism and please continue hold us accountable to our work in building a Faculty that prioritizes inclusivity, dignity and respect.

As a Faculty, we stand in solidarity with Black students, trainees, faculty members, staff, alumni, partners and the entire Black community to promote a Faculty, university and world that is equitable. A world where Black voices are heard and Black lives matter.

G.M. Taylor M.D. FRCS (C) Retired faculty

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 14:32

Well said but misses a lot of folk who aren't white or black or for that fact christian.

With the world in turmoil, not only is racism (anti black) alive and well but religious "racism" is alive as well. We must figure out how to teach, young and old, to respect and love our fellow humans regardless of colour, faith or those with physical and mental deviations from "normal"
Keep the lens wide!

G.M. Taylor M.D. FRCS (C) Retired faculty

Richard Reznick

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 15:22

Thanks Dr. Taylor,

I agree entirely, we must be mindful of all potential sources of bias. Thanks for your comment.

Richard

Richard Reznick

Donald Wolochow, Meds '57

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 15:32

I have only been back on campus for class reunions (30th, 40th, 50th, 60th); so I don't know anything about the racial discrimination situation at Queen's. I hope there is none. When I entered as a medical student in 1951, there were no Blacks, Asians, or other people of color in our class. There was a quota (unwritten?) for Jewish students and females. When McNeil House opened, photographs of applicants were required, because, I was told, officials feared that too many non-white students might apply because they were unable to rent rooms in Kingston! We have come a long way since then, but there is always more to be done, as events of the past week
and past years have demonstrated.

Donald Wolochow, Meds '57

Bill Moore, Meds '62

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 15:46

Thank you for this eloquent blog. When I was at Queen's, it seemed to be almost totally White students and faculty. Times surely have changed in many ways since then and much progress has been make regarding racial diversity, for which you have advocated. Prospective and current students should notice this as a welcoming environment. If it is applicable in Canada, the US is learning, possibly reacting to Brown, or People Of Color, including Native Americans, as racial descriptors. Our world is no longer White or Black.

Bill Moore, Meds '62

Thanks Bill. You are correct, the times have indeed changed. Indeed, we are working hard to promote a welcoming environment. That said, tackling issues like intrinsic biases requires a culture change which is hard work, done over a long period of time.
All the best,
Richard

Richard Reznick

Mona Sawhney

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 21:36

Hello Dr. Reznick
While taking all comments regarding your blog into consideration, the issue we need to address right now is how Black people are treated.
While I believe that all people should be treated with respect regardless of skin colour, sex, gender or religion - we are at a time where it is important to stand up for black students, black faculty, and the black people of Kingston (and all over Canada).
With all due respect, lets address the problem of how Black people are treated in Canada without diluting the issue.

Mona Sawhney, NP(Adult), PhD
School of Nursing

Mona Sawhney

Dear Mona,
Thank you for your comment. I agree we have a lot of work to do on addressing the problem of how Black people are treated in Canada. The events of the last month have further highlighted this issue.
Thank you for your comment,
Richard

Richard Reznick

John Bayne, Meds 75

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 22:39

Please do not forget the racism in Canada against our first nations citizens.

John Bayne, Meds 75

Dear John,
You are correct that systemic racism in Canada affects many groups. I am confident that we have done a lot in the area of paying attention to Indigenous-specific issues, of course there is still more work to be done in this area.
Richard

Richard Reznick

Leda Raptis

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 10:32

At this time specifically we must talk to the local Police. They can play a very important role in p r o t e c t i n g black people from racism, specifically. Sadly, the police have recently been the perpetrators of racist actions, not the other way round, but with the right training, and SINCERE regrets for OUR-white's race's doings, we may be able to change things around. The police must "serve and protect" black people too, not just threaten, to the point that young black men are afraid if they are stopped by police, that this may be their last time... That's a colossal FAILURE in their professional role. Resisting death is NOT resisting arrest.

Leda Raptis

Klodiana Kolomitro

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 12:54

We have a long way to go to decolonize our curricula and I vow to actively work towards this and support all our faculty in cultivating a pedagogy of justice, interconnectedness, and respect. Thank you Dean Reznick for inviting everyone to "continue to hold us accountable to our work in building a Faculty that prioritizes inclusivity, dignity and respect"

Klodiana Kolomitro

Thank you Klodiana, and we appreciate all the work that you do in support of our Faculty. You said it best, we need to cultivate a pedagogy of justice, interconnectedness and respect.
Thank you for your comment,
Richard

Richard Reznick

Molalign Adugna, PhD student

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 13:57

Thank you so much, Dean Reznick, for your effective leadership and remarks. I am working on investigating the effects of social stigma on the lives and education of young people with disabilities in developing countries such as Ethiopia. I found how much structural stigma prevails and profoundly affects individual lives. We need to develop anti-stigma and anti-racism programs and specific strategies that can be customized and applied to different contexts.

Molalign Adugna, PhD student

Richard Reznick

Sat, 06/06/2020 - 08:42

Thanks for your comment Molalign,

I certainly agree with you that systematically incorporating education about anti-stigma and anti-racism is important work for all of our programs. Of course some of that has already begun, but there’s a long way to go. Best of luck in your PhD Program. It certainly sounds like fascinating work.

Richard

Richard Reznick

Isaac Sobol

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 14:39

After graduating Queens Meds in 1985, and completing my Family Medicine residency in 1988, my medical career has been almost exclusively working in, and for, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities.
I’ve seen or heard of racism in each of those communities. I’ve visited Northern First Nations reserves which had no indoor plumbing or mechanism for disposing of trash.
I agree with an earlier comment which requested that we not ignore both the history of institutional racism as well as the ongoing societal racism of Canada’s Indigenous People’s.

Isaac Sobol

Richard Reznick

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 12:28

Isaac, thank you for your comment. I agree that racism and discrimination, along with health inequities is pervasive in our society. Thanks for reminding us of the need for ongoing work and attention for Canada's Indigenous People.

Richard

Richard Reznick

Yours Truly

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 00:17

Thanks for the blog post, Dr. Reznick. I am in complete agreement with the posts above that a lot has to be done for several disenfranchised populations (e.g. the black and indigenous populations).

Directly responding to your blog post, I find that we're currently ignoring an enormous elephant in the room: a lack of commitment in attracting capable black medical students to QMED. Ironically enough, since the CBMS announced the creation of the award for incoming black students on April 16th 2018, there have been no black medical students at QMED. The class of 2023 has no black students (confirmed), and to my knowledge, the incoming class of 2024 has no black students. Now, I'm hoping they're still somewhere on the waitlist and they'd get in before September, because 2 years without black students, after the formal apology and repeal, would be painfully comical. As an aside, what is the allocated money used for? Is it at least being used to support the current black medical students?

Now, for the purists at the back championing the selection of candidates with the highest GPA, MCAT scores, stellar extracurriculars (who simultaneously choose to ignore the established body of evidence showing these criteria do not predict clinically competent and empathetic physicians), I said 'capable' black medical students above because we know there are capable black medical students. UofT has double digits, and colleagues in other programs mention they have black students. Yet there is deafening silence from Queen's. If the Faculty of Health Sciences wants to put its money where its mouth is, then it should figure out why the last group of black students are currently going into their third year. Data should be released on the demographics of applicants. We know there are black interviewees; we interview them. But what's going on afterward? Are they fleeing for 'greener pastures'? Are they simply not getting acceptances? Both of these issues have differing solutions, and we cannot tackle any of these issues if the UGME and FHS do not release the data (or at least set up a commission investigating this). Is it until we have 4 years consecutive classes with no black medical students that the FHS and UGME realize something has to be done?

Queen's has always been on the forefront for educational innovation (RE: QUARMs program, Home of the CBME), yet we seem to be dilly-dallying when it comes to tackling the issue of under-representation in medicine. I would rather concrete actions be put in place addressing these issues, than the nebulous 'support' and 'solidarity' proffered to black students and faculty.

Yours Truly

Thank you for your post. The issue of Black medical student acceptance has been one of much discussion during the deliberations of our Commission on Black Medical Students that emanated as part of our action plan after the apology. These deliberations have intensified in the last few weeks, and indeed, there has been new discussion about the admissions process with respect to equity seeking groups in general, and the aspiring Black medical students in specific. In fact, just three days ago there was meeting of our leadership team on this topic. Dr. Mala Joneja will furthering the discussions that are meant to address this issue along with our entire educational decanal team.

Richard

Richard Reznick

It's time for healing

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 13:35

It is great that we have a starting point where we can discuss this topic, which has been swept under the rugs for hundreds of years. As a black woman who has endures systemic racism personally, professionally and academically it will take more than just a discussion. We all need to be authentically open, honest and above all transparent when it comes to addressing this matter.
Effective change starts with leaders and community members taking ownership for the lack of understanding and insight pertaining to this matter. Second, we need to find meaningful ways to facilitate healing from these gaping infected wounds, cultivated by hate and ignorance.
Crystal Jardine PhD (student)

It's time for healing

Dear Crystal,
Admitedly we have a lot of work to do, but we are taking this very seriously, with dramatic increase of intensity of our work. I'd like to refer you to Dr. Sanfilippo's response that he fashioned after he met with the students about this issue: https://meds.queensu.ca/ugme-blog/

Thank you for your comment,

Richard

Richard Reznick

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.