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  

‘Changing Our Communities for the Better’

Medical student Vivian Leung in the garden at King Elementary School

It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon, and Rush University medical student Vivian Leung gathers a group of second- through eighth-graders around the vegetable garden she helped them plant. “Who remembers what this is?” she asks, pointing toward a patch of green leaves. “Aru-? Arugu-?”

“Arugula!” a boy answers, setting in motion one of many after-school lessons Leung has led as part of what she calls the “edible schoolyard program” at King Elementary, a public school on Chicago’s West Side. She visits the school once a week to discuss, tend and eat the vegetables with children. In the process, Leung is breaking down obstacles to healthy eating that plague many Chicago communities.

King is in the middle of a food desert — an area, usually composed of lower-income communities, whose residents have limited access to grocery stores or other retailers that sell healthy, affordable food. These areas foster unhealthy diets that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity-related metabolic disease. Continue reading

Transformation Deepens Our Community Commitment

Terry Peterson, Rush's vice president of government affairs

By Terry Peterson

Rush’s new hospital building and our other campus improvements will do even more than transform health care in the Chicago area. The Rush Transformation also deepens and furthers Rush’s commitment to our surrounding community, providing jobs, job training and other economic opportunities to the residents of Chicago’s West Side.

Rush University Medical Center has been located on the West Side since 1871, and over the past few decades, it’s played a key role in the area’s emergence from a long period of economic struggle and physical decay. While two other medical schools moved away from the struggling neighborhood, Rush upheld its commitment to the area by investing in new facilities, including the Armour Academic Center,  which opened in 1976, and the Atrium Building, which opened in 1982. In the following years, the West Side began to flourish as other new and refurbished buildings appeared, including offices and condominiums. Continue reading