Dean’s Message: Together in Unity

We encourage all members of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine community to learn meaningful ways to show solidarity and stand against racism and hate in all its forms.

By Stuart D. Flynn, M.D., Founding Dean of TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine

Dear School of Medicine Colleagues,

Protesters marching through the streets, police and protesters clashing, property damage, injury and death, smoke billowing in the air from burning buildings, and the nightly news trying to address these riots and another crisis simultaneously. Although this sounds like our present situation in our country, this is my recollection as a boy in 1967 and 1968, riots juxtaposed with the Vietnam War. While my beloved Detroit Tigers were on their way to win the World Series in ‘68, blocks away from the stadium, rioting consumed Detroit. And like now, such riots were not confined to Detroit, ravaging many major cities throughout our country. Not insignificant, some of this occurred in 1968 during the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. It was hard for me to contextualize all that was happening and even in my bubble of youth, I not only knew what was happening was very wrong, I also knew it was going to leave an indelible and hugely negative mark on our country’s history. Although I was too young to fully comprehend, I was transfixed by and quietly cried for both assassinations and the societal unrest.

More than 50 years later, what has changed? The news of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Ahmaud Arbery have elicited some of the deepest forms of anguish, fear, sadness and rage in recent memory, both individually and now collectively. Yet, we know these deaths are only recent examples of the stark racial injustices that have plagued our country’s history, not just for the last half century, but throughout our country’s life, and continue to be frequent, invoking the simple yet profound question, WHY?

I would love to believe that individuals at our school don’t experience these same injustices.  However, I know that is not true.  Members of our community, and their families have experienced horrible racism, injustices large and small, and inequalities that should not exist.  This fills me with sadness, embarrassment, frustration and sometimes even rage.  It is inexplicable to me how we can treat one another with such lack of humanism and respect. As part of a larger family, we need to acknowledge the pain and grief that we, as a school and as valued members of our community and society, are all experiencing. This moment is made even more poignant during this time of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unequal burden of the disease on communities of color.

In our mission working toward providing and achieving optimal health for all, it is important to recognize that these deaths were preventable and enabled by a deeply rooted system of racial inequity, oppression, and discrimination in the United States. Therefore, with this message, we also ask you to use this moment to strengthen your commitment to achieving racial equity rather than fall into despair. It is important that we join the call across the country to demand justice for all victims of racism and the countless other victims of police violence in solidarity with the Black community. As noted by the American College of Physicians  in 2017, “Hate crimes directed against individuals based on their race, ethnic origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity, nationality, primary language, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, cultural background, age, disability, or religion are a public health issue.”

We must continue to be unaccepting of such egregious behavior prejudices. Our job is to inspire talented and young men and women of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual preferences and socioeconomic statuses. To quote Dr. King, Jr. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Our challenge, which we accept with passion, is to help build a culture in our local environment and in our society and world that demands we strive to live together.

We encourage all members of the SOM community to learn meaningful ways to show solidarity and stand against racism and hate in all its forms by using some of the resources below. We also ask that you recognize the overwhelming and disproportionate psychological toll these events continue to have on our Black students, staff and faculty, and ask that you practice compassion and empathy to our colleagues and students experiencing trauma in the aftermath of these tragedies. We also encourage those experiencing trauma to practice self-care by connecting with family, friends, and other community support people or using some of the resources provided below. As always, please know that you can reach out to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Student Affairs, and TCU Counseling and Mental Health Center.

Resources for Engaging in Anti-Racism Work and Practicing Solidarity

Resources for Increasing your knowledge and read more about this public health issue

Resources to alleviate the trauma to individuals and communities associated with hate crimes.

Finally, please focus to uphold the mission and values of our school and work together to eradicate racism and promote a healthy, safe and just community and society for all. We are honored to be leaders in our community-we now must model what is right.

I want to thank Dr. Lisa McBride, Dr. Danika Franks, the SOM Diversity Standing Committee, and many others for guidance through these very difficult times. Please know that in addition to these individuals, our Office of Diversity and Inclusion is also a wonderful resource.

Respectfully in solidarity,

Stuart D. Flynn, M.D., Dean

The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine