Racism, Health and Rush’s Commitment to Equality

Leaders at Rush shared the following message Friday with the Rush University Medical Center staff:

Along with our leaders across the Rush system, we are deeply saddened to be writing to acknowledge the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This tragedy is all too familiar and has once again shocked the nation and our community here at Rush.

Floyd’s death sadly echoes those whose lives were taken before, like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Laquan McDonald and so many more. This is not an issue for only black Americans. This is an attack on all humanity.

At times like these, we often offer thoughts and prayers as a show of support. However, thoughts and prayers will never be enough to address this pattern of losing men and women in our communities. We need more than just words. We must show by our collective actions that we are willing to dismantle racism — a system of oppression that produces poor health outcomes and premature mortality and affects all of us. 

We have witnessed in our own community how COVID-19 has disproportionately taken its toll on black and brown lives. People have lost family members, and in areas throughout our community, many have lost jobs. The murder of George Floyd just adds to the collective pain and strain that our communities, including those in our community here at Rush, are feeling.  

‘We must work together’

Rush has a mission of improving the health of communities. Four years ago, we made health equity a strategy and identified structural racism as the root cause of poor health and death gaps in our neighborhoods. We formed West Side United, a racial equity health collaborative aimed at reducing by 50% the life expectancy gap between the Loop and the West Side by the year 2030 by addressing the structural determinants of health.

Violence in any community tears at its very fabric. Such violence cannot be tolerated, and we must work together to guard against it. We commit to doubling down on our existing efforts and to building a stronger foundation to support them. We must continue to stand united against racism in all its forms.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate. Adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Dark cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Today, hate is thriving in the light, on our TV screens, through social media, in public speeches, in random police stops, during casual walks in the park while bird watching. It’s so important for the light of justice, peace and equity to shine even brighter, and we do this by calling out the darkness. By facing it head on and refusing to give into it. What’s happening now in our nation and communities is not normal. It is not acceptable. We cannot sit by and tolerate it, because our silence equals complicity.

At Rush, we do everything we can to save lives. Rush is a place of hope, health and healing. We honor people’s lives here. We care for each other. Our culture is to heal, to connect, to support, to serve, to give back, to invest in communities and to provide opportunities. We believe in respect for all, and Rush stands with those looking for peaceful change and an end to such unnecessary brutality. We know we are so much stronger together.

Sincerely,

Dr. Omar Lateef, CEO, Rush University Medical Center
Dr. Sherine Gabriel, President, Rush University, and Chief Academic Officer, Rush University System for Health
Dr. Ranga Krishnan, CEO, Rush University System for Health  

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