Nearly 150 students, faculty, and staff at Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine in Springfield participated in a demonstration Wednesday night calling for an end to systemic racism in their field.
The school’s chapter of White Coats For Black Lives - a nationwide medical-student-led movement - planned the event.
It began with eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence - the amount of time George Floyd was pinned to the ground by police in Minneapolis.
Rising fourth year medical student Alexander Worix organized the march. He said he wants people to understand that racism is a public health issue.
“The whole world is in an uproar about racism in America,” Worix said. “It's time to hold institutions, and the whole nation accountable to make sure that there’s equality and justice for all the senseless killings that have been happening.”
Worix said in order for a change to take place, all levels of government must act.
“That means action in our government - national, local, state government,” he said. “It means action in our own institution by making an action plan, following through with it, and bringing everyone together, too, not just the African American community.”
Holding up signs that read “White Coats For Black Lives” and “Black Lives Matters”, demonstrators walked down the streets and sidewalks on North Rutledge Street outside the medical school’s buildings in groups of ten and wore masks to follow social distancing rules.
Dr. Erik Constance is the associate dean for student affairs and admissions at SIU School of Medicine. He said he’s proud of the students for organizing the event and is ready to see changes in the medical field.
“We’re doing what we can to encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion, but it’s never enough,” Constance said. “Medicine needs to change in the delivery of healthcare, and what our healthcare workers look like.”
Constance said healthcare needs more women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.
Similar demonstrations of medical professionals have happened in Chicago, Madison and other cities around the country.