OHSU PA Program Statement of Anti-Racism

Dear PA Classes 2020, 2021, 2022, Alumni and Preceptors:

Especially to those of you who identify as Black/Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), those of you who are even now dealing with the compounding traumas of watching lynchings and murders across this nation, a posture of dominance rather than cooperation from our country’s highest office, and a deluge of micro-aggressive doubt about your lived reality from far too many white Americans. We hear your pain. We see your righteous anger.

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. We say their names aloud. While many of us have addressed these recent murders on our personal social media pages and individually with students, colleagues, friends and family, we as a Physician Assistant faculty and staff want to collectively and wholeheartedly affirm that BLACK LIVES MATTER.

We know that this affirmation may ring hollow for some of you, and we own and lament that. We confess the inadequacy of anything we might say at this moment. We recognize our complicity in the silence of our predominantly white institution, and the ways that these systems of violence and oppression benefit us every day. Medical education and Oregon Health & Science University have benefited from and inherited a national legacy of white privilege and the subjugation of people of color. We are operating within a nation fundamentally built on systemic racism and white supremacy. We will continue to try to do better.

As healthcare workers, as Physician Assistants, we know that justice for the police brutality George Floyd and thousands of others have suffered will never come through more police brutality, through more mass incarceration. These are more than individual racist events, they are symptoms of a racist system.

Our response to this must be anti-racism.

What does this mean for us as a group of predominantly white Physician Assistant educators and program staff? Dr. Howard Straker, President of the Physician Assistant Education Association, recently released a statement noting:

“Racism is an injustice that denies people their humanity, jeopardizes their safety, and cheats them out of their best health. African Americans and other members of communities of color live with these threats daily. For PAEA, an organization whose vision is Health for All, we must acknowledge that these acts of inhumanity represent a threat to both the health of the nation and our individual patients. It is our duty and intention to move toward eliminating racism through education.”

Therefore, we must take this moment to honestly examine how Physician Assistant curricula can go beyond teaching about physical or cultural diversity and seek to empower the next generation of Physician Assistants to disrupt and dismantle institutional racism.

Today we want to emphasize where we will seek to take immediate concrete action while looking forward to collaborating with students, the OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion and other university entities, as well as revisiting our mission, vision and values with an upcoming PA Program retreat:

  • Our teaching: We recognize the ongoing need for us to honestly examine our curriculum, the readings we assign, and the ways we manage (or do not) classroom discussions. We must do better at equipping ourselves, and our graduates for this work. We do not expect our BIPOC graduates to teach us how to teach, that is not your responsibility, but if you have recommendations for how we can do better, we welcome your wisdom. We as a Program commit to collectively beginning a journey together on anti-racism. 
  • Our self-study: We pledge to center anti-racism as we embark on a program-wide self-study so that we may identify ways in which we are complicit with systemic racism and identify ways to dismantle those practices.
  • Our accountability: We commit to creating an initial yearlong action plan that we will share out with students for transparency and accountability.

Finally, we recognize that people react to trauma in as many ways as there are people. Your response is your response. But as you navigate this trauma in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, let us know if and how we can support you. We are humbled by and so proud of the work you are doing. We see you. We seek to support you.

In solidarity, and with gratitude and acknowledgement of our social work colleagues and their contribution to constructing this statement,

Oregon Health & Science University
Physician Assistant Program

Faculty and Staff