Dell Medical School students show support for Black Lives Matter movement

Anusha Lalani

Within two weeks of its first session, students at the Dell Medical School displayed their support for #BlackLivesMatter through open discussions among students and faculty about the importance of diversity and having good physician-to-patient relationships regardless of the patient’s race.

More than 30 students posed for a photo shared on their individual Facebook accounts showing their support for the movement in hopes of showing people outside of the school what the students hope to accomplish with their studies.

Brooke Wagen, one of the students in the photo, said she wanted to display her support for this movement not only to raise awareness of the racial inequality in America, but to show the inequality that patients who don’t have access to necessary healthcare face. Wagen also said the support shown by the students was not a “one-shot, one-photo moment,” but a topic that should continue to be discussed and one she holds close to herself.

“The things that I am passionate about in terms of health disparities and advocacy for Austin are entrenched in [a] racial divide that has made different neighborhoods in Austin have less access and preventive health, and that’s something that I’ve cared about before and it’s something that I’ll continue to care for,” Wagen said. “I hope that all of the things that I learn continue to be shaped by the convictions that I have about service and I feel compelled to keep that at the front of my mind.”

Whitney Williams, also a student in the photo, said one way to show continuous support for equality is to have an ongoing discussion inside and outside the classrooms and Dell Medical School helps students do just that.

“I think Dell Medical School in particular has the meat in its curriculum and the students as well who are open to talking about these vulnerable sort of issues,” Williams said. “It’s important to me that every individual student of our first class feels that they can talk about issues of race … how that relates to their development into a physician.”

To provide the students with a chance to express their thoughts on the issues that exist in society and in America, an open discussion was held at the Dell Medical School Health Learning Building on July 19 for Dell Medical School students. The discussion was coordinated by the assistant dean for diversity Rene Salazar, and will continue every few months as part of the Diversity Dialogue Series.

“It’s important for us to be able to come together to have conversations and really be able to share our perspectives and our thoughts and our reactions,” Salazar said. “If we don’t create that opportunity, if we don’t create that space for the conversation, then we miss out on learning and growing and becoming more aware of these issues.”

Salazar said the first discussion enabled students to know how others felt about what has been happening in the U.S. and make them feel comfortable enough to share their concerns.

“It was a wonderful discussion because students were able to share experiences and perspectives and I think we were able to learn a lot about each other,” Salazar said. “We actually are going to continue to do this on a regular basis just to give us a chance to connect and have these conversations outside of the classrooms.”