Dr. Mark Laret - Injustice and Racism in Our Country



Fri 6/5/2020 2:53 PM

Dear Colleagues,

The past weeks have exposed, in undeniable ways, a problem that has been festering in this country – the unjust treatment of people of color.

We are all feeling pain and anger in different ways. Some of you have spent a lifetime taking daily precautions in order to safely navigate society in ways a white person never has to consider.

For others, who don’t ever worry about getting pulled over by police when simply out driving – and how to respond - or ways to shop without aggravating suspicions of a store manager, the recent deaths of black people jogging outside, sleeping in their homes, and now, under a policeman’s knee, are exposing horrendous gaps in how people of color are treated in our country.

Racism and injustice are pervasive problems that require societal solutions that start with each of us. At UCSF Health, we must accelerate our work to reduce health disparities, and the inequities in our own culture that have been brought to light in recent engagement surveys.

There are actions we can take that are in our immediate control.  As a start, I ask everyone at UCSF Health to join me in doing three things: listen, learn and lead.

I have been reaching out to colleagues to ask them how they are doing. Please respect that everyone may be processing events differently. Use your best judgement to let colleagues and teams know you are there for conversation and support. Race and ethnicity can be difficult topics to discuss, and it may be uncomfortable, which is precisely the reason it is so important for us to do.  We may use the wrong words at times. But if the outreach comes from a place of genuine compassion and concern, we can listen to and learn from each other.

Read, observe and internalize others’ perspectives in ways you haven’t before. I’d encourage you to watch Tuesday’s Town Hall  (start at 26:00) in which several colleagues share deeply personal stories; read this opinion piece from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; and engage in ongoing forums at UCSF.  Yesterday’s Grand Rounds featured world experts discussing the intersection of COVID-19, race, health disparities and economics, and there are countless other commentaries online.

Each one of you is a leader.  Talk with your managers about how our organization can improve.  We know from engagement scores that we have work to do right here in order for everyone to feel they are safe and equally valued.  There are actions you can take to change our country: get involved with organizations, donate money and vote.

The death of George Floyd is tragic and unacceptable.  It has galvanized the country to better understand and address underlying issues that led to this moment.  We are an academic health system and excel at putting learning into practice.  If there is any place that can be a catalyst for change, it is our organization.

As always, thank you for all that you do for UCSF Health and the patients we are privileged to serve.



Mark R. Laret

President and CEO

UCSF Health