West Coast Medical Associations respond to death of George Floyd

Leaders from the California Medical Association, Washington State Medical Association, and the Oregon Medical Association released statements in recent days on institutionalized racism and the killing of George Floyd.



California Medical Association (CMA) President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D., released the following statement:

“The physicians of the California Medical Association were among the millions of Americans horrified by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. The seeming indifference to his suffering before his death is a glaring reminder that institutionalized racism remains endemic to the United States. His senseless death also requires us to confront the epidemic of state-sanctioned violence against people of color. As physicians dedicated to healing, we cannot choose to ignore the consequences of hatred and discrimination because we know they contribute to disparities in health outcomes for communities of color. They also negatively impact every facet of our lives from public safety and criminal justice to economic opportunity and public health.

“We respect and commend the professional ideals of those serving in law enforcement. We also acknowledge the sacrifices of those committed to protecting and serving our communities with honor. But we cannot ignore the systemic problems embedded within our justice system that endanger the lives of Black and Brown communities. We cannot tolerate any culture that cultivates the infliction of racial violence and mistreatment of its people. This means we must also examine the systems and practices of our own medical profession.

“Our profession has its own history of abuses of Black and Brown bodies in the name of advancing medical science. We also understand the unconscious biases and prejudices that codify policies and programs disproportionately harming communities of color. We must do more to eliminate health inequities that undermine our state’s public health and collective well-being.

“Through CMA, we support physicians using their influence to create solutions that disrupt the generations of institutionalized racism that fostered the tragic circumstances we are currently witnessing in our country. Many CMA physicians already work in partnership with health care and community leaders to formulate and execute programs aimed at addressing racial and ethnic inequities. Together, we can do even more to achieve our goal of health equity and truthfully represent the values of compassion and humanism that define our noble profession.”

The Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) released this statement:

“The Washington State Medical Association, like the rest of the U.S. and the world, is shocked and saddened by the needless loss of life resulting from the use of excessive force and violence, the latest in a long line of many such incidents in our country.

In the midst of a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting our communities of color, the death of George Floyd serves as a harsh reminder that the responsibility for dismantling structural racism is incumbent upon all of us, particularly those in positions of leadership.

Racism is a social determinant of health. The disparate health outcomes of black Americans in the U.S. can be seen as an extension of a historical context where non-white, and specifically black, lives have been devalued. Physicians and other health care professionals wield power, privilege, and responsibility for dismantling structural racism, and we have an obligation and opportunity to contribute to health equity through legislative action and advocacy.

Just as COVID-19 has revealed the disparate impact on communities of color, the death of George Floyd has shown how too easily persons of color in our culture can become victims of racist acts of violence. We urge our political leaders at this time to join us as we repay our obligation to contribute to health equity, here in Washington state and across the U.S., through stronger public policy, so that George Floyd’s death—and those of the thousands of victims disproportionately impacted by COVID-19—will not have been in vain.”

 Oregon Medical Association (OMA) President Kevin Ewanchyna, MD, had this to say:

“During a time of great stress and suffering in this country due to the global COVID-19 pandemic—a disease that disproportionately affects Black people and other communities of color—we have witnessed another purposeful act of violence against a person of color with the death of George Floyd.

The health of the community is more than the medical care we provide to our patients. Racism is a public health issue, and as medical leaders, Oregon physicians and physician assistants must stand up against the reality of systemic racism and its consequences to improve the health, safety, and wellbeing of people of color.

I and my medical colleagues are committed more than ever to rooting out the causes of racism and supporting solutions to permanently resolve inequities based on race. The OMA devotes itself to listening, to learning, and to developing programs that address racial and other inequities in the healthcare system. Above all, the OMA advocates for prompt, meaningful medical care for all communities and populations.

Staying silent is not an option. I call on my own colleagues, even during this extraordinary time, to pause and reflect on this loss of life, and to dedicate themselves to their compassionate work that can bring about the change we need.”