The following is an excerpt froma June 2020 article republished with the permission of GOOP.
Black Americans aredisproportionately infected with and dying from COVID-19. In a report from the largest health care system in Louisiana,70 percent of the people who were killed by COVID-19 were Black, even though Black people make up only 31 percent of the systems population. In his recent book "Blacks in Medicine," Richard Allen Williams, MD, the founder of the Association of Black Cardiologists, discusses the health of Black Americans from the point of view of doctors and patients and digs deep into the history thats led to todays disparities. (Williams is also currently a clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.)
His history of Black medical practitioners in the U.S. is fascinating and disturbing, starting with the remarkable contributions that Black people made to medicine even while enslaved. Here, Williams explains how a long tradition of discrimination and racial segregation has resulted in inequality in health outcomes for Black people in the U.S. And he tells us why hes hopeful for the future.
GOOP: A powerful letter of yours was published in theLos Angeles Timeson June 2, 2020. Can you tell us about the events of the 70s and 80s that you wrote about?
Dr. Williams: I was the assistant medical director at the brand-new Dr. Martin Luther King Medical Center in Los Angeles, having just come across the country from Harvard Medical School, where I had completed my cardiology fellowship. I came into a hospital that was built on the ashes of the Watts uprising. I saw a great deal of police brutality going on, especially toward the Black population. A number of Black men were dying from what is called the chokehold, a carotid restraint method administered by police, which was highlighted most recently in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This restricts blood flow to the brain and also can cause a drop in blood pressure and heart rate such that the individual dies.
I noted that sixteen men had died from the chokehold in a few months. Twelve of those sixteen gentlemen were Black. So I was amazed when I got a call from police chief Daryl Gates asking me if I agreed that the susceptibility, as he put it, of Black people to this chokehold was due to a weakness in their anatomical structure. He was basing this request on a book that I had written, "The Textbook of Black-Related Diseases," which described differences in health care delivery and responses to medications being different for Black people than for White people.
I refuted this vehemently and called a press conference. This issue came to the attention of the Los Angeles police commission and it led to a banning of the chokehold in the city of Los Angeles. What George Floyd experienced was not something new, and this problem could very easily be eliminated. All that is needed is for mayors and police commissions to say that no longer will the chokehold be accepted. I was at a meeting with assemblyman Mike Gipson, who has sponsored a bill for the purpose of banning the chokehold throughout the state of California. Governor Newsom has promised to sign it.
GOOP: You went through your medical training in the 60s. How did the civil rights movement impact your career in medicine?
Dr. Williams: I was involved in petitions to open up Harvard Medical School to a greater degree of diversity. I was the first Black postgraduate trainee at Harvard Medical School in its entire history. I was surprised when I learned that and started a push for change that was very successful. I teamed up with the dean of the medical school, Robert Ebert, for a rather unusual get-together, so to speak, with members of the Black Panther party and Black Muslims. We had a historic meeting in Roxbury at a Muslim temple. The dean of the medical school came, and I presented the case that Harvard wasnt admitting any Black people into its medical training programs and was not turning out any Black doctors into the community. We got Harvard to contribute a large amount of money for me to start a recruitment drive, which I went on throughout the country, recruiting Black medical students and interns and residents to apply to Harvard. We started admitting our first residents and interns during the time I was in my training program there. In 2004, I was given a lifetime achievement award by Harvard for the efforts that I had made in opening the institution up to diversity.
GOOP: How well represented are Black medical doctors in the US now?
Dr. Williams: The number of Black doctors in this country is about 6 percent of the total, which is ridiculous because approximately 13 percent of the population is Black. Thats something that Im working very diligently on now, with efforts to get Black students into medical school, as well as providing scholarship funds. Ive established seven scholarships to fund Black students going into medicine.
GOOP: You wrote "The Textbook of Black-Related Diseases" in 1975 what was the impetus at the time?
Dr. Williams: I wanted to do something significant in regard to what I had found were severe medical problems with my people, with Black people. And thats when I discovered that there was really no literature on the medical problems of Black people. It was assumed either that Black people should be treated the same as White people or that Black people did not have a need for treatment for certain conditions. At that time, heart attacks and hypertension were not thought to be problems that Black people suffered from. I decided that none of that was true and that we had to start to bring the truth to light. Dr. George W. Thorn, my boss at Brigham and Womens Hospital, encouraged me to write a pamphlet about it, which grew into an 850-page book, "The Textbook of Black-Related Diseases," published in 1975. I dont know whether I wouldve had much of a chance to get published without his help because there wasnt much interest in a book like that at the time.
- To deal with the A levels fiasco fallout, medical schools need a cash injection - Times Higher Education (THE) - September 8th, 2020
- Mercer University Breaks Ground on New Medical School Campus in Columbus - Mercer News - September 8th, 2020
- COVID-19-induced 'sophomore medical student syndrome' | TheHill - The Hill - September 8th, 2020
- New crop of medical students are headed to the lab - Stanford Medical Center Report - September 8th, 2020
- U of M Medical School researchers look to beach water for COVID community infection - KARE11.com - September 8th, 2020
- When's the right time to choose a medical specialty? - American Medical Association - September 8th, 2020
- Gujarat medical school to carry out autopsies of COVID-19 victims to study effects on body - Republic World - Republic World - September 8th, 2020
- Durham student with dreams of med school wins $100,000 in lottery game - WRAL.com - September 8th, 2020
- How to help medical students keep tabs on their mental health - American Medical Association - September 8th, 2020
- Industry VoicesCould less emphasis on the MCAT bring more diversity to medicine? - FierceHealthcare - September 8th, 2020
- Medical exams postponed amid strike and resurgent virus - University World News - September 8th, 2020
- TCOM creates office of student success - fortworthbusiness.com - September 8th, 2020
- COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacting Those With Developmental Disabilities - Disability Scoop - September 8th, 2020
- Med Students 'Feel Very Behind' Because of COVID-Induced Disruptions in Training - The Southern Maryland Chronicle - September 8th, 2020
- A bill would spend $1 billion on diversifying medical schools to close the racial health gap - NBC News - August 10th, 2020
- Pandemic acts as dress rehearsal for new medical school curriculum - Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis - August 10th, 2020
- The Unnamed Hero - Pager Publications, Inc. - August 10th, 2020
- Testing is the key to a successful fall reopening on campuses (opinion) - Inside Higher Ed - August 10th, 2020
- TUNE IN: Alexandria Addressing Back-to-School Worries in Virtual Town Hall - The Zebra - August 10th, 2020
- Community Healthcare honored during National Health Center Week - Times Record News - August 10th, 2020
- When Things Arent OK With a Childs Mental Health - The New York Times - August 10th, 2020
- Making sure patients, physicians know about the advances in treating female cancers - Norton Healthcare - August 10th, 2020
- 'We Are Here to Help Them' | Harvard Medical School - Harvard Medical School - August 10th, 2020
- In the face of challenges posed by a pandemic and racism, the White Coat Ceremony underscores the importance of our shared humanity - AAMC - August 10th, 2020
- Physician Group Wants Medical Schools To Waive The MCAT This Year - Physicians News Digest - August 10th, 2020
- Born with 1 hand, she's an inspiration in virus fight - ABC News - August 10th, 2020
- What to Expect in Medical School - AAMC for Students ... - August 8th, 2020
- International med students ease the path for others with new mentor group - STAT - August 8th, 2020
- Texas schools reopening mandate sets off another local control debate - The Texas Tribune - August 8th, 2020
- Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Morehouse School of Medicine Welcomes Its... - Diverse: Issues in Higher Education - August 8th, 2020
- Guntersville native joins Andrews Sports med team | Free Share - Sand Mountain Reporter - August 8th, 2020
- COVID-19 changing study of medicine on Long Island - Newsday - August 8th, 2020
- Health Care Workers Of Color Nearly Twice As Likely As Whites To Get COVID-19 - WUSF News - August 8th, 2020
- Dancing Wildcats Enjoy Smoother Transition to the Field of Medicine - UKNow - August 8th, 2020
- Kindness is the best medicine - Argus Leader - August 8th, 2020
- Kindness is the best medicine | Coronavirus | rocketminer.com - Daily Rocket Miner - August 8th, 2020
- With academic health center, the imagined can be reality - Las Vegas Sun - August 8th, 2020
- Need to Take the MCAT? You'll Still Have to Do It in Person - The New York Times - August 8th, 2020
- Why isn't ventilation part of the conversation on reopening schools? - STAT - August 8th, 2020
- A UT undergrad helped build the app that will assist students coming back to school this fall. Here's what it can do. - UT News | The University of... - August 8th, 2020
- Med School Professor Removed from Fellowship Director Post, Apparently for Publishing Anti-Affirmative-Action Journal Article - Reason - August 7th, 2020
- Good Shepherd celebrates one of it's first graduates on track to realize dream of becoming doctor - WDSU New Orleans - August 7th, 2020
- Change the course of the pandemic: UMass Medical School, Boston tech company at center of national push to - MassLive.com - August 7th, 2020
- Duality Health Begins Rapid Blockchain Innovation Cycle with Health Product Innovation Team at Dell Medical School - Tyler Morning Telegraph - August 7th, 2020
- Deciding whether to send your child back to school? Heres what the experts say to consider - nj.com - August 7th, 2020
- Kaine introduces bill that would support medical schools in underserved areas - WDVM 25 - August 4th, 2020
- Medical school affiliates on lack of diversity, burden of the 'minority tax' - The Stanford Daily - August 4th, 2020
- International medical school graduates need an easier path to practice in the US | TheHill - The Hill - August 4th, 2020
- The 'dura mater' handles medical training and motherhood with aplomb - DePauw University - August 4th, 2020
- Emory University doctor and former teacher suggests staggered starts, plexiglass lunch barriers to avoid COVID-19 spread in schools - 11Alive.com WXIA - August 4th, 2020
- President Houshmand and CMSRU Dean Reboli named to South Jersey BIZ Power 50 list - Rowan Today - August 4th, 2020
- 'Its a good mix of medicine and social justice': Medical student gets experience at NATIVE Project during pandemic - The Spokesman-Review - August 4th, 2020
- Addressing inequalities in women's health research | Contemporary OB/GYN - Contemporary Obgyn - August 4th, 2020
- New medical residents experience a different kind of welcome into URMC - University of Rochester - August 4th, 2020
- 'Not surprising': International graduate students respond to short-lived ICE directive - The Stanford Daily - August 4th, 2020
- MASKED-COVID Study to Assess Renal-Related Complications of COVID-19 - DocWire News - August 4th, 2020
- Addressing inequalities in women's health research - Contemporary Obgyn - August 4th, 2020
- Seeing the Health Care Profession Through the Eyes of a Medical Scribe - Hamilton College News - August 4th, 2020
- University of Medicine and Health Sciences Launches State-of-the-Art Virtual Tour - PR Web - August 4th, 2020
- Researchers With Game - Ohio Wesleyan University - August 4th, 2020
- List of medical schools in the United States - Wikipedia - August 3rd, 2020
- Disc Medicine Expands Leadership Team with Industry Veterans to Advance Hepcidin Modulating Therapies Toward the Clinic - PRNewswire - August 3rd, 2020
- Solomon Rajput '14 takes on Michigan incumbent for seat in Congress - The Dartmouth - August 3rd, 2020
- Fighting the Coronavirus, from New York to Utah - The New Yorker - August 3rd, 2020
- Boston doctor named hospital hero relied on human connection to get through COVID peak - Boston Herald - August 3rd, 2020
- Starkman: Beaumont Executive Paid $932000 by Hospital Vendor Whose Implants Were Pushed on Surgeons - Deadline Detroit - August 3rd, 2020
- Students need to be tested every 2-3 days for colleges to safely reopen - Yale News - August 3rd, 2020
- Taking Medicine and Tech to the Next Level: Ranney on New Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health - GoLocalProv - August 3rd, 2020
- Medical Schools Have Historically Been Wrong on Race - The New York Times - August 3rd, 2020
- After the Match: The Match in the Age of COVID-19 : Emergency Medicine News - LWW Journals - July 31st, 2020
- North Philly coronavirus risk: Temple University's return to campus is irresponsible - On top of Philly news - Billy Penn - July 31st, 2020
- Researchers Discover Stem Cells in Optic Nerve that Preserve Vision - Newswise - July 31st, 2020
- Pre-med students spend the summer studying COVID-19 - DePauw University - July 31st, 2020
- Five Questions With: Dr. Ben Abo on Snakes and Television - EMSWorld - July 31st, 2020
- We asked 20 medical experts whether they're sending their own kids back to school. Here's what they had to say - CNBC - July 31st, 2020
- NYU Long Island School of Medicine Is First School on Long Island to Start 202021 Term, May Be Microcosm of 'Hybrid' Class Model - NYU Langone Health - July 31st, 2020
- Medical education in the time of COVID-19 - Science Advances - July 31st, 2020
- Rutgers New Jersey Medical School - July 31st, 2020
- Discrimination in the medical curriculum: are medical schools providing students with equal access to the medical profession? - The European Sting - July 31st, 2020
- Marshall School of Medicine 1 of 9 schools to offer Mission Act scholarships to veterans - Huntington Herald Dispatch - July 30th, 2020