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Anne C. Larkin, MD
I know that I can speak for all of us in saying that we are so very happy that 2020 is behind us. Yet, as much as all of us have endured, there is no doubt that our patients and our country have endured much more. As we enter the early spring, I find myself contemplating the past 12 months. And as I consider the many important events, there perhaps can be none more important than our stark and long-overdue discussion about race, racism, and privilege.
Just last week, I took part in a Campus Civility Dialogue at my institution. In preparation for that session, participants were asked to watch the documentary “Black Men in White Coats.” At the University of Massachusetts Medical School, it was intended to spark a conversation about what we all can do to increase the number of black men in medicine. Watching the film generated so many emotions in me: sadness, disbelief, and an immense sense of tragedy.
As I reflected on my personal experience as the first doctor in an extended mid-western family, it drove home my own privilege that has shaped who I have become. While my sisters still think of me as the little toddler dancing to Beatles music rather than (or maybe in addition to) a successful surgeon, as I was growing up, there was little doubt in their minds or those of my parents about what I would accomplish – a diversion into the performing arts notwithstanding. I did not grow up wealthy, but I certainly had everything that I needed to succeed and even excel in life: a supportive family, public school teachers who believed in me, and a community and society around me that opened doors. The combination of these elements seems so very basic to me now, and still it is elusive for many, through no fault of their own.
This riveting and intense film discussed so many of the difficult issues that face young African Americans in our country and others from underrepresented backgrounds. Yet it was also a commentary with immense hope for the future. I truly believe that the New England Surgical Society can be a vessel for this hope. Let us join together during 2021 and commit to ending racism in the surgical profession through our common goals as an open, inviting, and increasingly diverse surgical society. Let us all pay it forward by opening doors just as we all have had them opened for us!
Anne C. Larkin, MD