EMRA Stands in Unity, Unapologetically Against Racism

May 30, 2020

Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. These are just three names of a long list who have lost their lives at the hands of a system that continues to fail them.

In the midst of a global pandemic, cancelled employment contracts, and radical changes to the 2020-21 residency application cycle, we have been facing some of the most challenging times in our professional careers as emergency medicine physicians-in-training. Now put all of this into the context of systemic racism that has plagued our healthcare system and country for years, highlighted time and time again with each preventable loss of a black life — named and unnamed.

Racism is a social determinant of health, and it is our job as emergency medicine physicians-in-training to combat this, no different than giving insulin in DKA or buprenorphine in opioid withdrawal. “The opposite of racist isn't 'not racist.' It is 'anti-racist’.”1 We must not be silent, for silence is complacency.

“At this time, it is very difficult to be a [trainee] and a black woman. There are feelings of rage, anger, sadness and helplessness. But there are also feelings of guilt because I am not being as productive as I should be with my studies.

Trying to be as productive as our counterparts, who do not have an intense and valid worry about their family members being hurt simply because of the color of their skin or having to see videos of black people killed by police on a loop with a promise that their families will never have justice, takes on a toll on our mental and emotional well-being.

It is hard to be able to voice my true feelings because of the fear I have that it could negatively impact my future. How much can I say? How will institutions feel about me if they knew my true feelings? Despite those thoughts, I will always stand up for my people.

I am a black woman first and despite the M.D. I will have behind my name, I will always be a black woman first.… My roommate who is also a black woman and a medical student asked me, ‘Why are we hated so much?’ I told her, ‘It’s because we have survived despite it all.’ ” - Future Dr. Apre Dixon-Gleaves, Howard University College of Medicine ‘21

EMRA’s mission is to be the voice of emergency medicine physicians-in-training and the future of our specialty. Let’s use our voices — to call out racism and hold people accountable; to vote for anti-racist leaders on every election ballot we can get our hands on; to advocate for policy change, whether at a hospital, state, or federal level. While solutions can feel unattainable in the wake of anger, fear, and sadness, we all have the ability to start somewhere.

Program directors: Commit to wholistically reviewing every application of a student of color this coming interview cycle and in perpetuity.
Clinicians: Commit to spending extra time at the bedside, truly listening to patients impacted by violence and racism.
Trainees: Commit to calling out explicit and implicit bias in the classroom and on rotations despite the fear of speaking up.

We are emergency medicine. We are EMRA. We stand in unity, unapologetically against racism.


Hannah R. Hughes, MD, MBA
EMRA President

P.S. There is no shame in needing help, especially during these difficult times. Free counseling is available for all EMRA members thanks to our partnership with ACEP.

1― Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist