I joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis as its 9th Chair on June 1, 2020. While excited to take on this new role, I must admit this is a difficult time. As a Black woman, I am outraged that we have to keep reminding the world that Black Lives Matter. I am more motivated than ever to work for change and I am proud to join with colleagues in our department in this statement.
On behalf of the department, we deplore the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and so many more Black lives extinguished at the hands of police brutality and racist violence. Their deaths represent graphic and repellent extremes of anti-Black racism in our society.
As clinicians caring for patients at Washington University Medical Center/Barnes-Jewish Hospital, we raise our voices to break the silence that compounds the trauma in our communities. And we speak up to acknowledge systemic racism against Black lives in medicine and science within our walls, the St. Louis community, and beyond.
This is deeply personal for us. We share the despair, anger, and heartbreak. We recognize that women’s health impacts the health of families and communities. We acknowledge racism, not race, is a public health problem. As obstetricians and gynecologists in St. Louis, we witness how Black women are dying prematurely and disproportionately from complications of pregnancy, women’s cancers, and now, COVID-19. As physicians, clinicians, healthcare workers, researchers, and educators, we take seriously our privilege and responsibility to be part of the solution.
As a department, we commit to take time and space to acknowledge the traumatic effects of anti-Black racism on students, trainees, staff, faculty and patients. We commit to listen and learn. We commit to develop anti-racist curricula, diversify our medical and scientific workforce, and provide mentorship and support to create the next generation of diverse leaders in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. We commit to take action for equitable access to patient-centered healthcare that is inclusive of Black lives. We commit to heal relationships with our communities from our past failings. We commit to keep challenging ourselves and our society to work collectively for change.
We are committed. Let’s get to work!
Dineo Khabele, MD
Mitchell & Elaine Yanow Professor and Chair, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Washington University School of Medicine
Ebony B. Carter, MD, MPH
Jeffrey Dicke, MD
Sarah England, PhD
David L. Eisenberg, MD, MPH
Katherine C. Fuh, MD, PhD
Chiarra Ghetti, MD, MSc
Jeannie Kelly, MD
Diana L. Gray, MD
Andrea Hagemann, MD, ,MSCI
Jerry L. Lowder, MD, MSc
L. Stewart Massad, MD
Kenan R. Omurtag, MD
Matthew A. Powell, MD
In August, 2020, multiple medical societies involved in women’s healthcare released a joint statement on collective action addressing racism. We, in the specialty of OBGYN, have historical ties to racism. “For example, the mid-1800s surgical experimentation of James Marion Sims leading to successful treatment of vesicovaginal fistula was performed on enslaved Black women, including three women, Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha, who underwent repetitive gynecologic procedures without consent.”