Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Today’s Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has great implications for reproductive healthcare that will reverberate throughout our country. Many within our school community may have varied opinions on and intense reactions to the ruling from our nation’s highest court overturning a nearly 50-year precedent set in Roe v. Wade, which protected a pregnant individual’s right to an abortion. While I am sure many feel strongly about this decision, I want to reiterate that we remain committed as a school to providing medical education with an emphasis on health equity and safe and affordable access to care.
As a medical school community, we acknowledge the known public health consequences of curtailing access to a comprehensive range of reproductive healthcare services, including abortion care. It is important to note that this ruling disproportionately affects pregnant people who have limited financial resources, those who are unable to travel for care options unavailable in their home state, people of color, and those who live in rural communities.
The Supreme Court’s final ruling in this case ultimately affects the health of not only women but people of all genders. With this in mind, we will continue to advocate for policies and programs that broaden access to healthcare, improve health equity, and eliminate racism and sexism in healthcare.
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Numerous tragedies have recently occurred throughout the country, as well as in our backyard. The racially motivated shooting of 13 people at a supermarket within a predominately Black Buffalo, NY, community by a white supremacist left us reeling. This heinous act, followed by a hate crime perpetrated against Taiwanese churchgoers in Laguna Woods, CA, which killed Dr. John Cheng, a physician who completed residency and fellowship training at Kaiser Permanente, and injured five others, has also left our community shaken. Just as we were trying to process these senseless acts of violence, 19 children and 2 adults were killed, along with others who were in injured, Tuesday in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX. As a parent, it is particularly horrifying to learn that children were murdered in their classrooms.
With these horrific events in mind, we also know that yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin. Today, we remember the victims who have succumbed to violence caused by hate and racism—including victims in cases that have not risen to the level of national consciousness—and renew our commitment to spreading a message of equity, inclusion, diversity, and peace within the KPSOM community and the community at large. We all know that one action or organization cannot stop the inequities and violence that plague our nation. However, we recognize the urgency of our mission to train future healthcare leaders, patient advocates, and community activists capable of addressing healthcare inequities, injustice, and malevolent behavior in our larger society as one part of the solution.
Together we can stand firmly against such atrocities and work to build a better tomorrow for us and future generations.
Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD, Founding Dean and CEO
July 1, 2021
Congratulations to our students for making it through your first year of med school! I think that deserves a round of applause!
I’m glad we are taking this moment to acknowledge our first-ever final day of school. We’ve had successes and we’ve had challenges. All of you have done an extraordinary job this year, and our school and community are the better for it.
We were prepared for an earthquake and a sustained power outage; and we were probably ready for hail, locusts, and frogs. But nothing could have prepared us for pestilence—or, rather, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of all the emergencies we gamed out, a once-in-a-century coronavirus pandemic wasn’t on our list. But, together, as soon as COVID-19 threatened our community, we got to work. We consulted with deans and med ed experts around the country who strongly advised us to have as much in-person instruction as possible. The public health experts supported that goal. We also heard from many of you that you wanted classes to be in person.
So our faculty and staff kicked it into high gear to adapt the school and the curriculum for a distanced and masked delivery, with some virtual learning mixed in. They took the curriculum they had been developing for years and retrofitted it to the realities of COVID-19, seemingly overnight. It takes real ingenuity to build, adapt, and implement a new curriculum, and they did it all under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. And there is so much more to our school than the curriculum. Our staff have been working day and night to create and continue this school. Many of our faculty and staff are here today, and I think we all owe them enormous thanks.
Our leadership are members of the faculty or staff, but I also want to acknowledge them directly. They have put intense effort and hours into this school since joining throughout 2018, immediately carrying us through an impossible timeframe for preliminary accreditation, and then creating all aspects of this school. Without them, there would be no school. Of course, there is also our parent organization, Kaiser Permanente, and our board, and those who initially envisioned a school. They have made this all possible.
And you, our students, you overcame incredible obstacles to achieve so much and complete your first year. Together, we found ways to stay connected and learn from one another, even during the times we were physically apart.
We got through the first year of the pandemic the same way that medicine is practiced best: collaboratively. And I am especially proud of how you built community amid some of the toughest challenges our country and world have faced in decades, not only the pandemic but also a renewed recognition of the racism, both individual and structural, that has been causing harm for centuries.
In your small groups this year, you learned not just about coronavirus biology and COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment, but also about how the pandemic exacerbated and shined a light on endemic health disparities.
And you got a crash course in the virtual care that is shaping our field today. Learning how to take a history via a screen will serve you well for years to come.
Our faculty and staff learned a lot from you, too. I’m proud of how they revised our curriculum and our practices in response to what you told us about how you learn best. I think we’ve all seen the value of more unstructured time for impromptu meetings, studying, and even a bit of relaxation, as well as the ability to take quizzes on your own schedule.
We’ve all learned a lot over the past year about the importance of adaptability, of listening, of trying something new when the way things have always been done isn’t good enough. Our school has faced, and continues to face, challenges and pain, and we among the leadership, faculty, and staff are eager to partner with you to continue engaging in the work of building an inclusive culture and incorporating restorative practices into our work. It won’t be easy, but we are grateful to be on this journey together.
I will end with a recognition of you, our extraordinary inaugural class, our class of pioneers, of risk-takers, who took a chance on a brand-new med school and curriculum. It takes a certain kind of person to take that chance. We aimed high when selecting this class, when selecting you, and we exceeded our target. You are a wonderfully strong, bold, and passionate group.
Thank you for contributing so much to our first year together. Congratulations again for completing this year.
August 25, 2020
The Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine affirms our commitment to being an actively anti-racist organization, and we join the millions of others around the country in proclaiming support for equity, inclusion, and diversity for all.
As educators of future physicians who will be advocates for patients and communities, we have a responsibility to work to embed anti-racism in the medical education curriculum and learning environment, and to challenge racism and inequality in society in every way we can.
So, through the work of our Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity and our Office of Academic and Community Affairs, we’ve developed a broad, updated Anti-Racism and Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Plan to confront racism and its effects, and to advance the representation and inclusion of groups underrepresented in medicine.
Through a range of new initiatives, actions, and resources, the Anti-Racism and Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Plan promotes steps to confront racism, mitigate bias, and advance inclusion. This is the next step in our collective process to create a culture of belonging and of support for an inclusive and anti-racist community.
Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD
Founding Dean and CEO, Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine
June 1, 2020
Over the past few months, our nation has been suffering from a pandemic that has taken more than 100,000 lives—and disproportionately affected communities of color. While many of you are still on the front lines fighting that battle, we are also facing a new crisis—borne of generations worth of pain—this one precipitated by the horrifying murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. Across the country, millions are standing up to be heard, expressing deeply ingrained pain at the injustice that has been experienced for centuries.
As I wrote on Twitter over the weekend, everyone who works in medicine does it to save lives, and weeks like this one remind us it’s not enough to lead in the workplace. We also have a duty to advocate for what’s right and fight against injustice. That was a big part of our motivation in starting this school, training students not only to be leaders in medicine but also to be leaders in their communities.
Right now, our community is hurting. We’re trying to make sense of this moment in history and reckon with our place in it. That’s why I convened the leadership team this past Friday to begin a process to identify more ways we can share our perspectives and support each other and our community during these trying times. I also encouraged anyone who is experiencing mental or physical trauma of any kind to reach out to the Kaiser Permanente Employee Assistance Program, which is available to everyone, free of charge.
We will be convening an optional Zoom meeting of the school community from 3 to 5 p.m. PT this Friday, June 5. At this gathering, we will break into small, facilitated groups to discuss how we are coping with the moment and how we as a community can better address the individual and structural racism that permeates our culture. If you are unable to attend, we will share any follow-up at our next school-wide team meeting on June 11.
I know our country feels fractured and broken right now. But if there’s anything the medical community knows how to do, it’s to strive to help our fellow human beings in their time of need, no matter how deep our wounds may be.
So, I hope all of you stay safe—and take care of yourselves. And if you need anything at all, you know where to find me.