HM20 Virtual

HM20 Virtual: Combating racism in medicine


HM20 Virtual session title

When Grief and Crises Intersect: Perspectives of a Black Physician in the Time of Two Pandemics


Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, FAAP

Session summary

Dr. Vignesh Doraiswamy, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics and a med-peds hospitalist at The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus

Dr. Vignesh Doraiswamy

Dr. Kimberly Manning, associate vice chair of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Emory University, Atlanta, masterfully discussed the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism that we are currently experiencing and tried to describe the unique perspective of Black Americans.

Though it is easy to see that COVID-19 is a pandemic, racism is not always seen in this way. Dr. Manning demonstrated that when a pandemic is defined as “that which occurs over a wide geographic area and affects a high proportion of the population,” racism is absolutely a pandemic. She gave a great analogy: when sticking your hand into a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, you do not expect to always end up with marshmallows alone, yet repeatedly, we see that Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. We often hear that we are in unprecedented times but as far as racism is concerned, there is nothing new about this.

Dr. Manning discussed the life stories of her grandfather, her father, and even her own life’s milestones such as starting college, getting into medical school, finishing residency – all the way to becoming a full professor. She described how each of these instances, though marked by something beautiful, was also marked by something truly awful. Each time she had a reason to smile and laugh, there was something awful happening in the country simultaneously that showed us how racism was still present. Though this was one person’s story, all Black Americans, not just those working in health care, can recount similar stories, emotions, and feelings of grief.

Dr. Manning concluded by telling us how we can “Do the Work” to combat the pandemic of racism:

  • Broaden your fund of knowledge: Read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries.
  • Remember that people are grieving.
  • Explore your implicit biases.
  • Be a brave bystander.
  • Avoid performative allyship.

Key takeaways

  • Though the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, the pandemic of racism is not.
  • The story of COVID-19 is the story of social determinants of health.
  • We all must “Do the Work” to combat everyday racism and be cognizant of what our Black colleagues are going through every day.

Dr. Doraiswamy is an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics and a med-peds hospitalist at The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus.

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