JUNE 1, 2020
Dear Colleagues and Students,
In the past three months, the coronavirus has contributed to the loss of over 100,000 lives in the U.S. and many thousands more globally. In Chicago, we have witnessed how the social determinants of health—poverty, poor access to health care, social exclusion and segregation—have increased vulnerability among communities of color to COVID-19. This preventable loss of life is heart-breaking. With horror, dismay and disappointment we also see how inequities in justice have also affected those who continually are disadvantaged in our society.
All of us are experiencing a great deal of pain, heartbreak, anger and confusion over what we are seeing and experiencing in our communities over the past week. Community health is the cornerstone of the mission of the UIC College of Nursing. Here, we often talk about the community, but it is also important to talk about the individuals that bring a face and name to community: Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, to name just a few. In the past three months, these individuals have lost their lives to the most pernicious of the social determinants of health: racism and police brutality.
This weekend we witnessed the aftermath of persistent bias in the use of deadly force by police against African American males. Research estimates suggest that about 1 in 1,000 black men and boys will be killed by police over the life course. We know from research that has taken place right here at UIC that violent encounters with the police have profound direct and indirect effects on the health, neighborhoods and life chances of individuals living in segregated communities of color.
You have heard the salient messages from our leadership, President Killeen and Chancellor Amiridis. Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion Dr. Phoenix Matthews and I want to add that, as current and future health professionals, we have an opportunity and a duty to affect injustices in health and society by acknowledging its existence; providing care to the underserved; training the next generation of nurse-activists; and highlighting the needs and potential interventions through our research on food and pharmacy deserts, lack of access to healthcare, and other social injustices.
As current and future health care professionals, and as members of an institution devoted to diverse communities, we must continue our dedication to equity and inclusion. We must continue to highlight and live those values that improve the lives of those not only in Chicago, but worldwide.
Knowing the caliber of our faculty, staff and students, I have no doubt that we help to amplify the voices that are speaking out in protest, and that we serve as a voice for those who are disadvantaged and voiceless. We must be devoted not only to bettering the lives of our patients but to improving the health of the communities in which they work, live and play. Through our earnest work to solve problems through research, to educate those who will make a difference in healthcare, and to provide the highest quality of care—especially to the most vulnerable—we can make a difference and address the issues of social injustice that require our seared attention and advocacy.
We take pride in the actions of the community of the College of Nursing. We know that, as angry and frustrated as we are, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to executing the values of UIC and those of our profession.