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Racism is a Public Health Crisis

Published on: February 1, 2021

"Never, never be afraid to do what’s right… Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”   - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The University of San Diego Hahn School of Nursing and Health Sciences supports the position of the American Nurses Association (ANA) that racism is a longstanding public health crisis in our nation that needs our immediate attention.

In response to this crisis, and in honor of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dean Jane Georges, PhD, RN shares the following call to action for America’s nurses.

Addressing Racism as a Public Health Issue

As a nurse, I am deeply committed to the ANA Code of Ethics, which obligates nurses to speak out against racism, discrimination of all types, and injustice. Nurses have many roles in our work of healing, but the role of witness is one of our most powerful roles.  We witness the most vulnerable moments of a human being’s life. We testify and bear witness to human suffering shaped by racism, and it must be stopped. 

As nurses, we have watched with horror the images of Mr. George Floyd — with his airway purposefully blocked and crushed by a policeman — struggle for oxygen, go into cardiac arrest, and subsequently die. All of us — all American nurses — are as responsible for responding to this brutal act as if we had been physically present.

This act didn’t occur in “our” hospital, or ICU, or ER, one might say. But it happened in “our house” — on the street of an American city to a citizen whose life American nurses are pledged to heal. We cannot and will not look away — not this time.

As ANA President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN says, “Silence is complicity.” Neither I nor the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science wish to be complicit in such atrocities.


Fighting Racial Injustice in Health Care

As nurse clinicians, scientists, and scholars, we commit ourselves to the public health crisis of racism in the United States. We place this commitment at the forefront of our professional consciousness, and we vow to engage in praxis, develop curricula, and generate nursing knowledge congruent with this commitment. That racism is a powerful factor in inducing suffering is an assumption that shapes our nursing practice and scholarship.

We recognize that racism is a key factor in the production of health inequities in our nation. Until racism is addressed in all spheres of American life, we will never achieve our goal of health for all our citizens. Racism is the endemic factor that results not just in overt atrocities like the death of Mr. Floyd, but in the covert, hidden violence of poor nutrition and limited access to health care. As nurses, we commit to calling out all forms of violence done to humans in the biopolitical contexts in which we live and work.

Join the Nursing Community at USD in Combating this Public Health Crisis

As a community of progressive scholars, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science will continue its ongoing mission of optimizing health, promoting healing, and alleviating suffering strongly informed by an awareness of social inequities, particularly racism. We hereby re-dedicate ourselves to the work of nurses everywhere to heal our world.

The Hahn School has focused on eliminating health disparities and the providing health equity to marginalized populations. USD SON will continue to grow as an anchor institution for preparing nurse clinicians and researchers who practice change making. 

A Candid Look at the Inequalities in Health Care

Watch a recording of the webinar Racism: A Public Health Crisis. Dean Georges moderates the discussion with USD students, alumni, and the community. A transcript of select questions and answers can be found here.

To learn more about our community and the four graduate nursing programs we offer, we invite you to submit an information request or give us a call at (619) 260-4548

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