Dear Members of the Harvard Chan School Community:
As a community, we have been forthright and forceful in declaring that structural racism is an urgent public health crisis. So it was immensely distressing to see several news reports this past week about a neo-Nazi demonstration targeting two members of our community who have taken courageous steps to identify and address institutional racism in medicine.
Michelle Morse, an alumna of Harvard Chan School who is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, and Bram Wispelwey, who teaches at both Harvard Chan School and HMS, worked with a team of physicians at Brigham and Women’s Hospital several years ago to study why Black and Latino patients with heart failure were more likely than white patients to be directed to general medicine, rather than the specialized cardiology unit known to achieve better outcomes. This important work led to institutional changes to improve patient care. Last spring, Michelle and Bram followed up with a call for a “proactively antiracist agenda for medicine” and recommended additional steps to recognize and redress inequities.
Since that article’s publication last March, Michelle and Bram have been subjected to ongoing harassment and threats. The neo-Nazi demonstration late last month was just the most visible of these ugly attempts at intimidation.
I am sharing this news for two reasons. First, to declare support for and solidarity with Michelle and Bram. Their work advances our vital mission of redressing inequities and building a healthier world for all. Second, to underscore that this attack on members of our community is not an isolated instance. There has been a sharp rise in hate crimes targeting Black people and people of Asian descent in the past two years. Hateful rhetoric has been normalized as a political tool. And scientists, doctors, and public health leaders have come under vicious attack for working to protect their fellow citizens from COVID.
In these precarious times, we must stand together to uphold our values, to support one another, and to continue to fight on behalf of the vulnerable and voiceless. I am immensely proud of the work we do here at Harvard Chan School and with our collaborators around the globe. Day after day, we make a difference. We will not be deterred.
At the same time, I want to remind you all how important it is to take care of yourself and your colleagues, especially in times of stress. Here are some helpful resources for additional support:
Students may contact Colleen Cronin in Student Affairs, email@example.com, 617-432-1542, or Harvard University Counseling and Mental Health Services, 617-495-2042 (after hours number: 617-495-5711).
Faculty and staff members may contact Jennifer Ivers in Faculty Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org; Linda Picard in Human Resources, email@example.com; or Harvard’s Employee Assistance Program, 877-327-4278 (877-EAP-HARV).
Additionally, the Ombuds Office provides a highly confidential forum to students, faculty, and staff whose concerns are affecting their work or studies.
As always, I am grateful to be part of our extraordinary community as we stand up to racism, fight for justice, and work to better the lives of our fellow human beings.
Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development,
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School