A Message from the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services
June 2, 2020
Dear Members of the College of Health and Human Services Community,
I am writing to echo comments from Mason’s Interim President Holton and President-Designate Greg Washington and to share my grief, anger, and resolve for action in the aftermath of the recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and David McAtee. These are only the latest examples of structural racism and police violence in our society. Today’s racial injustices are deeply rooted in a history of violence and inequality towards African Americans.
This moment is doubly challenging as our country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in Virginia, the African American community comprises a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Access to medical care, lifestyle and medical history do not fully explain these patterns, and underscore the importance of structural factors such as racism in the etiology of public health inequities, such as mental health disorders and maternal morbidity and mortality. These inequities are central to the mission of our College, as we work to ensure health for all people.
As the future home for public health in Virginia, our goal is to make health visible. At this moment, we recognize the urgency of addressing inequities on many fronts ranging from curriculum to research to public policy. Structural racism has been entrenched in our country since the first enslaved Africans were brought to Virginia 401 years ago. Given the enormous shifts in our lives due to COVID-19, this is a critical moment where we have an opportunity to lay a foundation for greater health equity in Virginia by advancing discussion to action and, in so doing, building new foundations and systems that ensure health for all Virginians, and beyond. To start on this path, our College will bring communities together to forge our path forward. Shortly, we will be announcing opportunities for your active participation on many fronts. The way forward demands that we listen to and learn from communities of color while doing this work.
I ask all to affirm the American Public Health Association’s position that declares racism and police violence as public health issues. This is aligned with our college’s mission of promoting the health of populations, while eliminating health inequities.
Students, staff and faculty may understandably be feeling distressed. To effectively help others move forward requires ensuring your own health and well-being. Please don’t hesitate to avail yourself to Mason’s resources: CAPS, Student Health Services, campus ministry, and the Office of Diversity Inclusion and Multicultural Education.
It is dependent on all of us to recognize and embrace diversity and to reject racism and violence. Our College remains committed to inclusive thinking and actions as we ensure health equity and promote a healthier and happier way to live moving forward. This is not a time to be silent in thought or action.
Dean Germaine Louis