Physician groups decry racism, discrimination

June 1, 2020

In a pair of statements, leaders of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians are speaking out against racism.

As protests rock the U.S. following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis, Minn., police officer, physician groups are adding their voices to groups calling for an end to racism and discrimination.

In a pair of statements released over the weekend, Gary L. LeRoy, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and Heather E. Gantzer, MD, FACP, chair of the Board of Regents for the American College of Physicians (ACP), spoke out against racism and discrimination in all its form, but particularly as it relates to police violence against African Americans.

“It is evident that African-Americans in particular are at risk of being subjected to discrimination and violence against them because of their race, endangering them and even costing them their lives,” Gantzer says in the statement. “This should never be acceptable and those responsible must be held accountable. ACP has long held that hate crimes, prejudice, discrimination, harassment and violence against any person based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, or country of origin is a public health issue.”

“What is happening in our communities today, and what has been happening in our country for decades, is unacceptable,” LeRoy says in his release. “As a health care organization, the AAFP considers racism a public health crisis. The elimination of health disparities will not be achieved without first acknowledging racism’s contribution to health and social inequalities. This includes inequitable access to quality health care services.”

Floyd died while in police custody May 25. Officers took him into custody after a call from a grocery store reporting that he was believed to have committed forgery. During the arrest, Officer Derek Chauvin sat with a knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.  For the final three minutes of that time, Floyd was unconscious, according to media reports.

Once video of the incident was widely shared on the internet, Chauvin and three other officers present at the arrest were fired from the department. Chauvin would later be taken into custody and charged with murder and manslaughter.

The death of Floyd has led to widespread protests across the world, but especially in the U.S., which have led to violent clashes between police and protesters. Reports show that some protests have been tied to looting and property destruction and curfews have been declared in more than two dozen cities.

“The issue of how to ensure that policing does not result in discriminatory enforcement and violence is a multifaceted and complex one,” Gantzer says in the statement. “While we caution against generalizing the egregious actions of some to all or most, a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to understanding and implementing solutions to discriminatory actions and violence against others is imperative, even as individuals who commit such acts and others with decision-making authority must be held accountable for their own actions.”

“It is incumbent upon all of us to engage in an honest discussion about how to ensure that health outcomes and personal safety are not determined by the color of a person’s skin,” LeRoy says.

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