UW-Madison medical students join national movement ‘White Coats for Black Lives’

MADISON, Wis.– A group of medical students at the University of Wisconsin- Madison are joining the national movement “White Coats for Black Lives,” in the fight to end racial inequality.

The mission of the movement is “eliminating racism in the practice of medicine and recognizing racism as a threat to the health and well being of people of color.”

Madison physicians joined the Student National Medical Association at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health chapter in vowing to be leaders of that change in this community.

“(George Floyd) said ‘I can’t breathe.’ When he did that, every healthcare professional around the nation heard him and that is why we are here today,” Dr. Jasmine Zapata said.

Madison physicians at the rally on Saturday said unequal access to healthcare needs is failing Black people. A recent example is the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus death rates among Black and African American people are substantially higher than white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“People are dying. We are dying,” Dr. India Anderson-Carter said. “Yet, that is not a public health crisis?”

A general surgery resident at UW Hospital, Dr. Callistus Ditah, said he is rallying because racial injustice is a public health crisis.

“This is not a police problem. This is an American problem. This is intrinsically a cultural problem, and we have to fix this from a system point of view,” Ditah said.

The movement is working toward achieving a more diverse profession, with doctors and nurses who look like their patients.

“It’s something that we cannot stay silent on. It’s something that as a medical community, we need to speak out against,” Dr. Patrick Lee said.

Ditah said change begins by asking simple questions.

“Look in your community. Look at where you work. How many people of color work there? How many African Americans do you have around you? How many of them are in you classes? Why aren’t they there?” Ditah said.

The White Coats for Black Lives movement is growing, with chapters at universities around the country.