Black Lives Matter in Medicine: What Must Change?

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Fall 2020

Photo by Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University

The massive protests that erupted across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death due to police brutality have served as a catalyst for recognizing and dismantling systemic racism on many fronts. Chief among them is the field of health care, where entrenched inequality has resulted in dramatically poorer health outcomes for people of color and roadblocks to advancement for underrepresented physicians.

What steps must we take — at Johns Hopkins and at medical centers across the country — to repair the wrongs of the past and bring an end to racism in health care? We asked just this question to people across Johns Hopkins Medicine who are actively engaged in creating positive change. Here’s what they said.

    About Our Respondents

    Erica Johnson is an assistant professor of medicine and program director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She grew up in Baltimore, graduating from Western High School and is the first physician in her family. She helped create the Training for Engagement and Advocacy in Community Health curriculum, which is now part of the residency program.  View Full Profile

    Namandje Bumpus, the first college graduate in her family, is a professor and director of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences. She is the first African American woman to lead a department at the school of medicine and the only African American woman currently chairing a pharmacology department at any medical school in the nation. From 2015 to 2017, she was the school’s first associate dean for institutional and student equity.  View Full Profile

    Robert Higgins is the first African American to hold the role of surgeon-in-chief or any departmental leadership role at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. On July 1, he also assumed the role of senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion for the school of medicine. He believes his white colleagues need to hear the personal journeys of their Black colleagues. His own journey includes his grandfather’s home being burned to the ground in a segregated neighborhood the day after it was purchased in 1965, when Higgins was a young child.  View Full Profile

    Crystal Watkins is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins and assistant director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Programs at Sheppard Pratt. She was born in Baltimore City and attended Baltimore County schools. Since some of her best mentors were white males, including Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Solomon Snyder, she reminds her students that “your mentor doesn’t have to look like you to have your best interests at heart.”

    Panagis Galiatsatos is an assistant professor of medicine and co-chair of the JHHS Health Equity Steering Committee in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The son of immigrants, he was born and raised in Baltimore. His experiences have driven him to address the issues faced by marginalized patients, including creating Medicine for the Greater Good, which partners with churches and other community organizations to overcome barriers.  View Full Profile

    Lisa Cooper is the James F. Fries Professor of Medicine and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Equity in Health and Healthcare. She is the director of the Center for Health Equity and the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, and has been awarded a MacArthur fellowship for her work. Born in Liberia, she saw a lot of health disparities. Coming to Baltimore, she saw many similar patterns and has been working her entire career on correcting them.  View Full Profile

    Dinah Miller is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the school of medicine. She has a private practice in Baltimore and is co-author of two books about psychiatry. Her article, “I Am Part of the Problem,” can be found on Medscape.

    Alicia Wilson is vice president for economic development for The Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health System. In ninth grade, she was not planning on going to college, but timely mentorship and encouragement led her to obtain a bachelor’s degree from UMBC and then a law degree from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, both on full scholarships.

    Sherita Hill Golden is a professor of medicine and the vice president and chief diversity officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine. She was initially drawn to study diabetes more than 25 years ago because it was a growing health epidemic that was especially affecting minority populations. As she began to see the challenges they had to navigate, she became more interested in addressing health equity from a systems point of view.  View Full Profile

    Agnes Usoro recently finished her residency in emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins and is now a part-time faculty member at the school of medicine and an attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Howard County General Hospital. Her passion for racial justice led her to help organize a Black Lives Matter solidarity event across all of Johns Hopkins Medicine, sponsored by the group White Coats for Black Lives.  View Full Profile

    Michael Hopkins is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in biological chemistry at the school of medicine and CEO of Black Scientists Matter. He grew up in North Carolina and has encountered racism in many forms throughout his educational journey. He wants to make things better for those coming after him.

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