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This moment

By Dr. Alice Chen
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The past couple of weeks have been a time of deep introspection and searching to make sense of what's happening in the world around us and what we can do to acknowledge the pain and fundamentally make things better. While words are far less adequate than action, we want to share a statement that we released to the press last week on behalf of the Doctors for America movement:

“This has been a challenging week for the nation. We have watched Alton Sterling shot to death while selling CD's outside a convenience store. We saw Philando Castile, a beloved school lunch supervisor, shot to death while driving home from the grocery store. We are witnesses to five police officers — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, and Michael Krol — shot to death and seven others wounded while doing their jobs and protecting a peaceful demonstration. These tragedies come on the heels of 49 people shot to death while dancing on a Saturday night in Orlando just one month ago.

“As doctors and medical students who have dedicated our careers to protecting health and saving lives, we mourn every loss. We call upon society to do everything we can to prevent tragic deaths from stealing the hopes, dreams, and futures of any person in America.

“That means affirming that Black lives matter. That means recognizing that every life is precious. That means taking a hard look at the prejudices and implicit biases that each of us carry and doing everything we can to remove those prejudices and biases. That means ensuring that law enforcement is well trained and well supported to de-escalate potential conflicts and eliminating racial bias from all aspects of our criminal justice system. That means passing common sense legislation to reduce gun violence including funding federal research on gun violence, investing in programs that reduce violence, and ensuring that no one who poses a likely threat to others or themselves can purchase a firearm. That means doing the hard work of building and strengthening trust and bonds between each of us and anyone who looks, talks, and thinks differently.

“Together, we can build a stronger and more cohesive society where everyone can live to their full potential.”

In times like this, it is easy to feel as though everything is going wrong. We cannot ignore the challenges and problems the nation faces. But we also cannot lose sight of the continued march of progress that every member of Doctors for America has been a part of in the past eight years since our movement first came together. Your voice, your stories, your participation in the actions and campaigns that we collectively take on are creating a better world for our patients, communities, and the nation.

In the face of pain and tragedy, it is up to each of us to find the courage and persistence to make ourselves be more honest and open about both what divides us and what brings us together, about the power and culpability that each of us has to bridge divides or deepen them, to bring more love and compassion or more fear and hatred into the world, to look to the light or focus on the darkness.

What gives me hope is seeing Doctors for America members continue marching forward. With your help and thoughtful input, we will gain better access to equitable, affordable, high quality health care for every person in America and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a life of health and vitality. We will expand Medicaid to the millions who need it in the remaining 19 states. We will make sure our patients can afford their medications. We will save lives from gun violence. We will tackle the challenge of bringing mental health disorders and substance use disorders out of the shadows of stigma and into the care people need. We will ensure that the color of your skin does not dictate whether violence will visit your family. We will not shy away from taking on longstanding and emerging threats to health so people can pursue their dreams.

Many of us are wondering what we can do. Here is an initial list of ways we can each do our part, but it is just the start of a conversation we want to continue with each person in the Doctors for America family. Tell us what you are doing and what else you think the Doctors for America movement can do to make tomorrow a better day.

  • Building bridges in your own life: Each of us can make an extra effort to be aware of and challenge our own biases, prejudices, and blind spots. Proactively connect with and learn about people and communities that are outside your normal circles, especially those that are hurting and feeling marginalized. Ask your patients about their experiences and their communities. Host a dinner or brunch and create a safe space where people in your life from different backgrounds can openly share their perspectives, fears, and hopes. 
  • Sharing with the Doctors for America community: We would love to put together opportunities where Doctors for America members learn from members of our incredibly diverse community. Let us know if you're interested in participating and sharing.
  • Doctors for America campaigns: Get involved in our campaigns and initiatives to take on barriers to health and opportunity. We are always seeking leaders for our active or planned campaigns and actions on many fronts including Medicaid expansion, mental health, affordable drugs, substance and opioid use, racial disparities, food insecurity, gun violence, and more. Even if you cannot lead, your participation at any level is the heart of this movement, including inviting others to join our movement and contributing financially.
  • Additional organized efforts: A group of doctors and medical students has authored "A Letter to Our Patients" with commitments to address structural racism as health care professionals. There are many events happening to highlight the growing scourge of gun violence both in communities and a #DisarmHate rally in DC on August 13. There are many other efforts arising out of recent events, and we encourage you to participate in efforts that speak to you especially those that are happening in your own community.

One more important note. As doctors and medical students, we focus our lives on taking care of those around us. As advocates, we demand even more of ourselves after hours and on weekends. But we can only keep changing the world if we carve out the space to take care of ourselves. So please, take the time to take of yourself, and we will continue this march together long into the future.

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