Together, as a team that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion, we are working to define the future of health and health care for the Commonwealth and our nation.
We are creating a community that recognizes and embraces diverse backgrounds, identities and lived experiences. We recognize that longstanding inequalities in treatment – deeply and historically rooted – produce adverse health outcomes. We are following a thoughtful process to understand our institutional history, contribute to the healing process and create a body of knowledge for generations to come in order to better position us to produce and sustain meaningful change. We will fearlessly accept criticism and continuously learn from past shortcomings and mistakes with transparency and humility, as expressed in our VCU Health Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement.
To that end, I am proud to announce the launch of the History and Health Program, which is a part of the VCU Health Equity initiative. The goal is to assist the VCU and VCU Health community in a healing journey by offering a rich menu of learning opportunities using the past to enhance our cultural awareness and understanding of the present and by doing so, build a more just and inclusive future. The History and Health Program will focus on a variety of topics that link our institutional history with the history of our city and to current health care policies and practices. By discussing these, we will become better health care providers, better teammates and a better community partner. At VCU, we also recognize that now is the time to take our reflections from conversation to action.
The first focus topic for the program will be on racial equity (or the lack thereof) and its contribution to adverse health outcomes for millions of Black Americans. For example, what part did VCU and its predecessor organizations play in a city with a history so intertwined with slavery, the Confederacy and Jim Crow segregation? Why do predominantly Black residents of some census tracts in Richmond have adult life expectancies that are 20 years shorter than nearby, predominantly white census tracts? What role can and should VCU play to change this grim reality? Reflecting the legitimate skepticism many in our community have of our willingness to change, based on historical precedents, how can we learn from them and earn their trust? These questions and more will be addressed over the next several months.
The forum is open to all VCU faculty, staff and students and VCU Health System team members, as well as to the community. Space is limited, so I encourage you to sign up and explore the new program and series. Please visit https://rampages.us/historyandhealth/ to learn more and register.
We need to understand our history in order to forge a more just and impactful future. Health inequities, and the disparate outcomes they produce, are deeply rooted in American medicine. Eliminating inequities won’t be easy, but VCU and VCU Health knows how to tackle difficult challenges …the time to act is now. I hope this new program will inspire all of us to think of new ways VCU and VCU Health can help promote the health of all in Richmond and the Commonwealth, improve social determinants of health, and develop exciting opportunities to engage with, and learn from, the communities that entrust us with their care.
Art Kellermann, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor and Senior Vice President for VCU Health Sciences
CEO of VCU Health System