The Committee of Interns and Residents, the union representing over 17,000 interns, resident physicians and fellows across the country, is appalled at the recent podcast publication from the Journal of American Medical Association titled “Structural Racism for Doctors – What is It?”. In it, the narrator would make us believe that structural racism cannot exist because it is illegal and that racism is only about individual mindsets and actions. Minimizing racism to individual choices instead of seeing it as the pervasive and entrenched societal evil that it is, does not just hurt patient outcomes in our healthcare system, but minimizes our experience as medical providers as well. As the history of this country has taught us, individual racism leads to collective racism, systemic racism, and in healthcare leads to the increased mortality and morbidity of vulnerable populations.
Questioning the role of structural racism in medicine and diminishing it to semantics is extremely problematic coming from a renowned medical journal. The implications of such blanket statements is far reaching and continues to reinforce the narrative that racism in medicine does not exist in a system built on the experimentation of slaves, colonial subjects, immigrants and other marginalized groups. Racism in medicine is deep rooted in policies that promote prejudice and diminish equity. This does not come at an easy time for this country. We experienced a serious reckoning with race relations last summer and again early this year. It is disheartening to see that JAMA allowed this podcast to make it to the masses, but it is also a perfect illustration that it is well past time for institutions like JAMA to seriously engage in anti-racist work.
Simply retracting a podcast due to public outcry is not enough. We need to be proactive and shy away from appeasing discomfort with difficult conversations. We can only make the change we need to see if we challenge ourselves to address. We demand a comprehensive review and overhaul of the internal process that allowed such a problematic piece to be published.