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The Searing Journey-Step One for LACMAHeals

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African-American Physicians: The Searing Journey — came out of a LACMA staff meeting right after the shooting that took place in Dallas this past July.

LACMA’s CEO, Gustavo Friederichsen, shared with his team how moved he was to hear Brian Williams, MD, speak about his experience as the trauma surgeon treating the police officers who were shot in Dallas. At a press conference that went viral, Dr. Williams also found himself talking about what it means to be a black man, a black doctor in America. Friederichsen and team sat around the conference table at the LACMA offices and decided to bring Dr. Williams to LA to speak and to open up a conversation so black doctors would have the chance to share their stories, challenges and hopes.

groupFive weeks later, on Aug. 31, LACMA headquarters was standing room only as Friederichsen, LACMA President Vito Imbasciani, MD, and Rick Baker, MD, (African-American Physician Advisory Committee) welcomed Dr. Williams.

The result was a three-hour-long conversation that included residents, students, physicians and LACMA staff and sponsors. The conversation reached another 35 people via live stream from Periscope. Here are a few quotes from the evening that went out via social media: “It is important for LACMA, as an organization, to not just grieve because of gun violence in this country,” Friederichsen said. “It’s important that LACMA, as an organization, not assume that we understand the struggles of any of our groups of physicians. It’s imperative that we provide opportunities for our community to come forward and share. At the roundtable, we heard over and over appreciation for creating a safe space to share and connect. This is just the first step.”

While the discussion was wide-ranging and at times intensely personal, there were a few themes that evolved. Increasing the number of African-American students pursuing medical degrees was agreed to be imperative. Randy Hawkins, MD, spoke to this issue and continued on to say that black patients will often feel more comfortable with black doctors. There’s a cultural competence that’s important to recognize.

Others emphasized micro-aggressions that are still felt daily in school and in practice. Making changes means addressing these in the moment and over time. It was stressed that joining organizations like LACMA not only helps individuals strengthen their voice collectively but also can help some to find their voice and speak up for the first time. Enlarging the circle was seen as a goal.

LACMA partners MUN CPAs and JNT Tek were also on hand to join the community and learn more about the specific needs physicians have in running their practices. They represent business support, another integral component to success.

Dave Bader of JNT Tek asked, “I have a young daughter. How do I teach her? I come back to this question: Am I treating others the way I’d want to be treated? If so, you’re usually going on the right path. It’s not just that these issues are for that subgroup to deal with. The onus for a solution doesn’t rest with them. We’re all in this together. Rectifying these issues makes things better for everyone.”

Next steps for LACMAHeals on issues affecting African-American physicians will include the African-American Physicians Advisory Committee and other volunteers. If you’d like to become involved with this effort or find out more about similar programs at LACMA, please contact carol@lacmanet.org.

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