Ralph Northam In Blackface, But What About The Medical School That Allowed that Ideology?
Today’s cable news carried the headlines about Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam. Northam is the 73rd Governor of Virginia, being elected in January 2018. He attended Eastern Virginia Medical School. He is a physician by occupation having served as an United States Army medical officer from 1984 to 1992. Northam completed pediatric residency at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and did a child neurology fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D. C. and John Hopkins Hospital. Since 1992, Northam had been a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA.
On February 1, 2019, a photo from Northam’s medical school yearbook’s page was released. It shows an image of a person alleged to be Northham in blackface standing next to a person dressed in the hood and robe of the Ku Klux Klan. A spokesman for Eastern Virginia Medical School confirmed that the image appeared in its 1984 yearbook.
I watched his press conference and could address Governor Northam’s excuses and inconsistencies, but there is something that weighs on me more. That something is why would a medical school allow such an environment? There is a presumptive thought that anyone who wants to practice medicine respects human lives regardless of skin color. Apparently, Eastern Virginia Medical School did not instill respect for all humans in their curriculum.
The idea that a person needing medical treatment would be dismissed or untreated because of the color of their skin has been well-known in various communities of color. It was about a month ago that I read professional studies and reports for how Black patients are perceived by White physicians, and more specifically, how the concerns of Black women breast cancer patients are dismissed. Black women are reported to be diagnosed less with breast cancer, but more die from breast cancer than White women. (Another post on this subject is in the works.)
The idea that any medical school in America would allow the publishing of a photo representing the domestic terrorist KKK is beyond appalling. It’s not only about Gov. Northam as much as it that Eastern Virginia Medical School apparently saw nothing wrong with the photo.
Eastern Virginia Medical School published a statement on their website. In it, they say that they plan to “… convene an urgent meeting of members of our senior leadership and members of our Boards to address this issue holistically for EVMS. We will, of course, include students, residents, faculty, staff, and alumni in this work.”
That is insufficient. The “urgent meeting” should include patients of color treated by grads of the institution.