#WhiteCoats4BlackLives: Med Students Protest Police Brutality

Ryan Syrek

Disclosures

December 16, 2014

On Wednesday, December 10, medical students across the country stood against racial profiling and police brutality in a coordinated protest branded #WhiteCoats4BlackLives. More than 70 medical schools staged "die-ins" or other forms of public protest in response to the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York.

Photo credit: Edward Kim, Medical College of Wisconsin

In the weeks since grand juries in both cases failed to return an indictment on the officers involved, increasingly large demonstrations have taken place from coast to coast. What has made this set of protests unique is the attempt to reframe the harms of racism as a public health crisis. #WhiteCoats4BlackLives was promoted by Students for a National Health Program, which is part of Physicians for a National Health Program. "As medical students, we must take a stand against the oppression of our black and brown patients, colleagues, friends, and family," the group said in a prepared statement.

Demonstrations took place at historically black colleges and universities, such as the Howard University College of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine, and across the country, from the Yale School of Medicine on the East Cost to the University of California Davis School of Medicine on the West Coast.

Although not everyone who participated was a medical student, images of soon-to-be-doctors wearing their signature white coats while at these rallies spread across the Internet. A search for the #WhiteCoats4BlackLives hashtag on Twitter produces scores of pictures, ranging from die-ins taking place on public streets and campuses to mass displays of the now familiar "Hands up, don't shoot" gesture. Speaking at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, fourth-year medical student Nicolás Barceló told the crowd, "The context in which our patients live contextualizes the type of care we need to provide."

The hope from protesters and organizers is that the dialogue continues among medical students and professionals. In their prepared statement, the group said, "We feel it is essential to begin a conversation about our role in addressing the explicit and implicit discrimination and racism in our communities and reflect on the systemic biases embedded in our medical education curricula, clinical learning environments, and administrative decision-making."

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