Black Lives Matter leaders took the megaphone at a UC Davis medical education building in Sacramento Tuesday, miles from the downtown intersection where they’ve been protesting for weeks following the deadly police shooting of Stephon Clark.
They again demanded police accountability and changes to use of force protocols, this time addressing a group of young faces in green scrubs and white coats. The students laid on the ground in what they called a “white coat die-in” — an event organized by a national medical student organization called WhiteCoats4BlackLives.
Fourth-year UC Davis student Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo was one of several students to call for more bias training for physicians, a better pipeline for physicians of color and an end to racial inequities in health care
“We do not practice health care in a bubble,” she said. “We practice health care in an inherently racist system.”
A large body of research shows that black patients generally receive lower quality care than white patients due to provider bias. They also face environmental barriers such as difficulty getting to appointments and lack of access to healthy foods and activities.
As such, Sacramento’s neighborhoods of color have some of the county’s highest rates of asthma, heart disease and hypertension.
“We are in the business of finding solutions and ways to improve the lives of our patients,” she said. “I believe it all starts by asking the sixth vital sign: on a scale of one to 10, how does systemic oppression and racism affect your daily life?”
This new wave of doctors hopes to turn the tables on those trends. Second-year student Alejandra Beristain-Barajas was one of many in attendance who said she plans to spend her career serving patients of color.
“I’m interested in working in Latino farmworker communities where there’s also a lot of inequity. For me, being able to wear this white coat is an opportunity to have a voice and be a spokesperson for people who can’t.”