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Duke University, School of Medicine address systemic racism

Friday, June 19, 2020
By William Alexander
Dean Klotman

This week, both Duke University and the School of Medicine took steps to acknowledge and address systemic racism, both within their institutions and across the nation, with particular emphasis on the effects racism has on Black communities and individuals. On Tuesday, June 16, Duke University held "Living While Black," an all-day symposium bringing together distinguished Black faculty, students and staff. Speakers discussed the history of race and racism within Duke and the United States, their personal perspectives as Black individuals at Duke, and steps to chart a path toward an equitable, anti-racist future.

Later that day, Dean Mary Klotman, MD, addressed race and racism within the Duke University School of Medicine with "Turning a Moment into a Movement: Dismantling Racism in the Duke University School of Medicine." Klotman acknowledged the grief and anger Black individuals and communities are feeling and vowed that the School would make structural changes to become a more equitable institution.

Living while Black
Above, Duke faculty members discuss the intersection of race, healthcare, history, and other factors at Duke University's Living While Black event.

“Whether it’s Duke University, School of Medicine, or Duke Health, we speak of diversity, respect, and inclusion. However we will not live up to those values without looking within our own house and actively eliminating systemic and institutional racism,” Klotman said. “I can think of nothing more important at the moment to acknowledge and take essential steps to dismantle any structural racism within our institution. When we do that, we can become powerful, credible, champions of change outside our roles at Duke.”

In addition to Dean Klotman, speakers from across the School of Medicine shared their personal experiences dealing with racism: Assistant Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Diversity & Inclusion Johnna Frierson, PhD, fourth-year medical student Kristen Simmons, Associate Professor of Neurology Andrew Spector, MD, and Assistant Professor of Community and Family Medicine Kenyon Railey, MD. Watch the address by Klotman, Spector, Frierson, Simmons, and Railey here.

Frierson Simmons Railey Spector
(Left from right, Frierson, Simmons, Spector, and Railey).

The Duke University Department of Neurology recognizes that the diversity of its community – including clinicians, researchers, trainees, leadership, and staff – is a necessary component of its mission of world-class patient care, education, and research. Our department is committed to building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive community where all members thrive in a welcoming and engaging environment. Read more about our efforts to improve diversity and inclusion here.