The events of recent weeks — most especially the horrifying death of George Floyd — have shaken our nation to its core. The ongoing protests give voice to deep-seated frustration and hurt and the very real need for systemic change. The killings of George Floyd last week, and of other African Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor earlier this year, are yet again painful reminders to all Americans of the inequalities in our nation.
With one voice, Hackensack Meridian Health strongly condemns all forms of racism, hate and violence.
Speaking out against injustice is a cherished part of our democracy. There are peaceful protesters who are justifiably reacting to frustration and anger, and I applaud their conviction. There are others who are attacking police, destroying businesses and harming communities. We condemn these unlawful acts. On behalf of all health care heroes fighting COVID-19, I appeal to everyone to practice social distancing and wear masks in public gatherings, so we don’t see a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
We are committed to change. We are taking additional positive steps, aided by our network Diversity and Inclusion Committee, including the creation of permanent focus groups to address issues of race and ethnicity in our workplace. These efforts involve our leaders. Our board leadership and I are also committed to creating a more diverse leadership team and board membership.
We must acknowledge that our nation has much work to do to address racial and ethnic divides; these disparities are evident in many spheres of life including health care. African-American women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. We learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that people of color are dying at rates much higher than white patients throughout the nation. We are committed to doing our part to close this gap.
In these trying times, I am reminded of an inspiring quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As one organization with many voices, we must draw strength from our differences, reinforcing the values and ideals that unite us.
The path to healing starts with compassion. At our network, we describe our core beliefs as the four C’s – Compassion, Courage, Creativity and Collaboration. I have watched our teams in the COVID-19 crisis exhibit all of these qualities and continue to be pillars of strength for our communities. These beliefs also help us continue to create a culture where differences are celebrated and welcomed.
On behalf of HMH, I want to extend our deepest thoughts and prayers to all those who are hurting, grieving or struggling to cope in the wake of these challenging times. We stand together as one community.
As a country, we must commit to building a more compassionate and just society. As a health care organization, we must double down on our efforts to eliminate gaps in health outcomes based on race and ethnicity and create a more diverse organization. And as individuals, let’s be the change we want to see in the world.