NYC Health Department’s Center for Health Equity, Medical, Public Health, and Academic Leaders, Student and Community Activists Host “Dismantling Racism in NYC’s Health System – The Time is Now” Forum

Participants discussed issues of race, racism and inequity in the health system
March 12, 2016 – The Health Department’s Center for Health Equity today joined the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the Institute of Family Health, Doctors for America-NY, White Coats for Black Lives, CUNY School of Public Health and several other organizations to co-host the forum “Dismantling Racism in the NYC Health System –The Time is Now.” Driven by public health leaders, student activists, organizers, medical school leadership and community activists, the forum addressed racism and racial inequities in the health system that contribute to poorer health outcomes in communities of color. Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett author of the groundbreaking article “#BlackLivesMatter – A Challenge to the Medical and Public Health Communities,” Dr. Camara Jones, President of the American Public Health Association, and Dr. Neil Calman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Family Health served as keynote speakers. The event also featured panel discussions, workshops and breakout sessions.
“Longstanding institutional racism has led to unacceptable health inequities in New York City,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Health professionals have a responsibility to acknowledge how racism can negatively impact a person’s health, and use their credibility to advocate for change. Today’s forum brings us a step closer to reducing health inequity.”
The forum had three goals:

  • Equip health professionals with the tools to address racism and eliminate inequities in the city’s health system.
  • Highlight sources of racial and ethnic inequities in the health system, including the role of unconscious bias and discrimination at the provider, patient, institutional, and structural levels.
  • Provide recommendations regarding interventions to eliminate health inequities. 

“This is a critical moment and opportunity for New York City to elevate the enduring realities of racism that many New Yorkers face and when it comes to the pursuit of optimal health, said the Director of Center for Health Equity Dr. Aletha Maybank. “The Center for Health Equity is honored to sit at the table with other Health Equity Warriors who are committed to thinking through solutions to confront racism and injustice in our health system.”

”New York has made progress in reducing health care disparities, but racial and ethnic inequalities still stand as barriers to care," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried.  “We must continue working to expand access to care for all, reduce high health care costs that fall disproportionately on communities of color, and ensure cultural and linguistic competency among providers in order to achieve truly fair and universal access to health care. It’s an honor to participate in this important event."

“This conference offers a unique opportunity to create a space for raising awareness and advancing advocacy to address racism in healthcare. It is a privilege to join forces with colleagues from a wide spectrum of disciplines in support of this effort,” said Gary Butts, MD, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of the Mount Sinai Health System.
“We at Icahn School of Medicine are so proud to be part of this initiative. It comes at a critically important juncture in the history of the medical profession and of our country. We are inspired by the leadership and passionate advocacy of our students. Their work is convincing proof that the future of our patients and communities is in good hands,” said Dr. David Muller, Dean for Medical Education at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
"Too many New Yorkers are suffering from serious health conditions without the help and treatment they need. Communities of color are especially hard hit because of lack of access to healthcare services and lack of proper insurance coverage. I want to thank the City's Health Department for promoting this important dialogue and working to build a healthier City for all," said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.

"Doctors for America is proud to be a participant and sponsor of the New York City Coalition to Dismantle Racism in the Health System," said Dr. Katherine Scheirman of Doctors for America. "Racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare are well-documented and, whether intentional or not, are associated with worse health outcomes. Removing the barrier of institutional racism is one way that Doctors for America is working to fulfill its mission to improve the health of our patients, communities, and nation."
"We join together in part because New York City has one of the most economically and racially segregated health care systems in the United States.  Blacks and Latinos are more than twice as likely to be uninsured or publicly insured which relegates them to care in our underfinanced public hospital system or in the public clinics of our private, non-nonprofit hospitals.  Sorting patients like this by insurance status creates defacto segregation by race we call 'medical apartheid'," said Dr. Neil Calman, President & CEO of the Institute for Family Health.
“Social justice and health are inseparable, each impacts the other directly and causally. A society can only be as healthy as its weakest link, and enhancing health is the most empowering intervention to a society at large, even before education and material wealth,” said Ayman El-Mohandes, MBBCh, MD, MPH Dean of CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. “This realization should guide our efforts at better understanding and more effectively resolving the blatant disparities in health that our nation suffers from along racial, ethnic and cultural lines. This battle can only be won if we embrace strategies to resolve barriers directly and remove the unequal burdens of risk carried by those that are most disempowered. We will be judged tomorrow but what we are able to achieve today, let us rise to our responsibility to act.”
“Every patient in every community deserves equal and timely access to quality care regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. Racism in health care manifests itself in many ways, including funding to safety net health facilities to how we treat the patient in front of us. Eliminating implicit biases in the delivery of care should concern us all and we need to work together on this,” said Dr. Matthew Hurley, Vice President of Doctors Council SEIU.
"The National Medical Association's local affiliate, Manhattan Central Medical Society, aims to address health inequity in New York City and to improve the numbers of underrepresented minorities in medicine in New York. We have been an active participant in this coalition and will continue to do so until racism is no longer a barrier to health care of patients and physicians of African descent," said Dr. Camille Clare, President of the Manhattan Central Medical Society.
“We don't need any more studies to provide evidence that low-income, immigrant, communities of color or other marginalized communities are denied the fundamental right to a standard of living and access to health care that respects who they are, where they are from, and who they choose to love,” said Anthony Feliciano, Director of the Commission on the Public's Health System. “The health and well-being of themselves and of their family are integral to the success of the city.  We have put that success in constant risk of failure when discrimination and racism continue to be deeply rooted in our healthcare system and institutions.  We are in solidarity with the creation of a diverse New York City coalition to dismantle the inequalities that persist due to racism.”
“The Student National Medical Association for Region IX is proud and honored to actively participate in this historic forum which provides us with tools and opportunities to reenergize our regional and national communities, support current and future underrepresented minority medical students, address the needs of underserved communities, and increase the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians. This forum provides a safe place for conversation and strategizing between all parties involved,” said Antoinette Leonard-Jean Charles of the SNMA Region IX Board.
"White Coats 4 Black Lives is proud to join this coalition and to begin to work towards this long overdue goal: ending racism in the healthcare system," said Charlotte Austin of White Coats for Black Lives. 
“Once upon a time, it was said that there was no place for social justice in medicine. That time is long gone. It has taken over 500 years to construct racism as a dominant, prevailing narrative - one that leads to inequities in health that are unfair and avoidable. It will take all of us to undo racism,” said Kamini Doobay, a fourth year medical student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-leader of Doctors for America-NY. “We together formed the NYC Coalition to Dismantle Racism in the Health System to raise awareness of and take against racism in the NY health system. Our unity shows the extended community that this work is larger than any one of us. Now is the time to come together and translate awareness into action, and direct our frustration and sadness into collective hope and opportunities for change.”
Today’s forum was an initiative of the NYC Coalition to Dismantle Racism in the Health System, an alliance of New York City-based institutions and organizations committed to providing a united voice on issues of race and racism in the health care system. Members of the coalition include: Center for Multicultural & Community Affairs, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Medical Education Department, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Committee of Interns and Residents / SEIU Healthcare, Department of Family & Social Medicine, Montefiore-Einstein, Doctors Council, Doctors for America-NY, Institute for Family Health, Latino Medical Students Organization, National Medical Association, Empire State Medical Association, Manhattan Central Medical Society, National Physicians Alliance-NY, New York City Department of Health’s Center for Health Equity, Physicians for a National Health Program – NY Metro Chapter, Student National Medical Association, White Coats for Black Lives, the Doctors Council, The National Medical Association, People’s Institute of Survival and Beyond-NY, SEIU, and Commission on the Public's Health System (CPHS).

About the Center for Health Equity

The Center for Health Equity was created in 2014 to strengthen and amplify the Health Department’s work to eliminate health inequities, which are rooted in historical and contemporary injustices and discrimination, including racism. The Center’s four key approaches to advance health equity in NYC are: supporting the Health Department’s internal reform in becoming a racial justice organization, investing time and resources in key neighborhoods that have been historically deprived of sufficient resources and attention, building partnerships with other City agencies and community advocates that advance racial and social justice, and making injustice visible through data and storytelling. For more information on the Center for Health Equity, visit
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