Reaction to Events of August 12, 2017

On August 11 and 12, 2017 the tranquility of our Charlottesville streets were shattered as white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups sparked several violent clashes that resulted in multiple injuries and the tragic death of a young woman, well documented in the press.  Following these heartbreaking events we have had several town hall meetings within both the UVA health system and the department of surgery examining these events and the response of the University community. We have listened to all our team members, including attending physicians, resident physicians, students and staff and have learned several valuable lessons.

First, from a pure medical perspective, the department of general surgery was intimately involved in the medical care provided as a result of these violent outbursts. Prior planning resulted in an organized effort that provided expert care for all people injured that day. Literally on the front lines were our residents, of varying ethnic backgrounds, providing world-class care to everyone injured that afternoon. We were exceedingly proud of our surgical residents, who worked as a team and provided support to one another during these difficult hours. The camaraderie and collegiality was a powerful display of the character of these young physicians, displaying to the world what it means to be a surgeon and a member of a surgical department. This confirmed the quality of our surgical training and that, while we are always committed to improving, we are proud of our residents who performed expertly and with the utmost professional integrity on that frightful day.

Secondly, the safety of our residents and fellows remains our top concern. University President Theresa Sullivan is carefully examining the response of UVA to these events to ensure proper protection around the grounds, including the medical school. At UVA Health System, our commitment to protecting the safety and security of our team members includes a full-time team of security officers supported by the UVA Police Department. In addition, in response to resident concerns, our GME office has increased the funding for residents who need a safe ride home when commuting to and from the hospital and are expanding our communication tools to allow for more efficient and timely communication about evolving events surrounding our medical community.

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Hundreds of people gather together on UVA Grounds in a stand against hatred and bigotry

 

More importantly, at the UVA Health System, and in particular the department of surgery, we are striving to build a welcoming, inclusive community for all of our team members, including students, residents, staff and patients. These events have doubled our resolve to reject groups and individuals whose actions and words are openly hostile and intimidating to any of our team members. While we will continue to open our doors and provide care to everyone we will not tolerate hate speech or discriminatory behavior directed towards any of our team members. Period.

Finally, while we are hopeful we can avoid such turmoil in the future, we also recognize that these tragic events have been an opportunity for introspection, as a nation, a university, a community, a department and, yes, as individuals. In the department of surgery we are challenging all our members to re-examine the inherent biases we bring to work everyday and find new and improved words of communication.  By doing so we will strengthen the bonds of our community that will allow us to expand are already rich horizons. We recognize that diversity makes us better and stronger and is required for excellence in all of our missions: patient care, education and research. While our work to build an equitable and inclusive community is not complete, we are committed to pursuing this path and are optimistic about the future of our community.

These lessons affirm our core values of excellence and diversity as we look towards the future of UVA surgery and surgical training.