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Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons | Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics

"Pandemic and Racism: We Can Move Mountains"

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

We condemn the racism, brutal repression and murder of people of color and in particular African Americans that has been occurring in the United States of America. Recent events, including the murder of George Floyd, highlight inequities in our society that have existed for hundreds of years. These have led to peaceful protests as well as violent responses. We support the peaceful protests. The need for a complete reformation of the legal/justice system is of paramount importance. The discrimination being highlighted by protesters is also endemic to our profession and reflected in the paucity of diversity in biomedical research.

Our department has supported diversity in biomedical research, in part through the SPURS program for over 17 years. We also need to reach out to the community, mostly people of color, who are our neighbors in Washington Heights.

Indeed, we can and need to do much more - in particular by supporting members of our community who are people of color. It is important to check in with colleagues and trainees to assure they are safe and know they are supported. We need to take care of ourselves and our own mental states during this extraordinary time of national protest against racism in the context of a pandemic that has changed all of our lives.

Like many my hair is growing long. I am reminded of Samson, the Nazarite, who famously was not allowed to cut his hair and was also prohibited from attending funerals, even of his own parents. Since my father died recently (not from COVID-19) I know this to be a cruel restriction for those who have lost family and friends, or know individuals who are sick. We often are not able to comfort them, and hold the ones we love. Like Samson, though, we can move mountains by advancing knowledge and, where appropriate, fighting the pandemic scientifically.

Other pressures including the need to stay at home, home schooling and child care, caring for elderly and at risk family and friends, financial and career pressures are causing tremendous stress. We need to support each other and provide a shoulder to rest on.

As my good friend and our dear colleague Henry Colecraft continuously reminds me together we will get through this. There will be treatments, we will be back to work, careers of trainees and junior faculty will move forward, critical research will succeed, and together we will find comfort and happiness in days, weeks, months and years to come.

Stay safe,

Andrew R. Marks, M.D.
Wu Professor and Chair, Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics
Founding Director, Helen and Clyde Wu Center for Molecular Cardiology



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