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Recent events have laid bare the effects of centuries of unjust treatment of Black communities in the United States. The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor—among countless others, many of whom will never be known widely—and continued institutional violence aimed at Black individuals are deeply disturbing. At the Temple University College of Public Health, we are committed to social justice and stand in solidarity with those calling for equal rights and positive change. We unequivocally denounce racism, both structural and individualized. It has no place in our college, our city, or our world. Unfortunately, we see the impacts of racism across all facets of our country, and our healthcare system is no exception. 

Our nation’s original sin was slavery. After more than 150 years since the abolition of slavery, Black people continue to face increased risk of death, whether from unequal access to adequate housing, education, and healthcare, or from police violence. The ineffective and uneven response of the federal government to the pandemic and the outsized toll it has taken on communities of color has revealed our society’s toxic inequalities. The very diseases that disproportionately plague Black communities—diabetes, hypertension, heart disease/stroke, violent injuries, and now COVID-19—are emblematic of the unequal conditions in which many in our country live.

What can we, as educators, researchers, and clinicians, do? 

First, we can continue to provide care and support to our neighbors. The College has hired its first Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Interprofessional Education to assist us in developing greater clinical capacity to do just this. Second, we will continue to educate and train students who will graduate to work with communities in need, whether through advocacy, community and public health services, or direct care. Third, we must commit ourselves to increasing access to education for low-resourced students through scholarships and financial support.

Finally, we will continue to conduct research that directly speaks to the needs of our community and the nation. For the last year, we have been developing the Office of Community-engaged Research and Practice (CERP) to assist efforts to enhance and elevate research that will be impactful and make a difference to the health and welfare of our society.

Inequality and discrimination, whether directed at someone because of their racial or ethnic heritage, their gender or sexual orientation, their ableness, or their country of birth, diminishes all of us. Together, we can make a difference in eliminating injustice. Let us rededicate ourselves to helping our community and our country overcome the current pandemic and create the conditions to help our country heal. 

In good health,
Laura A. Siminoff
Dean of the College of Public Health