Around 40 medical students from Georgetown University School of Medicine participated in a protest outside the hospital today as part of a nationwide medical student movement called White Coat Die-In Day.
The gathering, organized by first year medical students Jane Yoon and Michael Pappas along with other medical students in an anatomy lab yesterday, protested racial injustice following the recent non-indictments and accusations of police brutality in the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and attempted to raise awareness about racial disparities in the health care system. The protest was part of a nationwide movement that began at the University of California in San Francisco and included over 70 medical schools.
“As medical students, we see the way that black and brown individuals are disproportionately affected by different illnesses, the wealth and income gap, the education gap,” Pappas said. “And we thought as medical students – there was this national movement already going on, around 70 medical schools were doing it – it should be something that we should be a part of and support.”
The protest included a minute of silence to remember those who lost their life due to police brutality or racial attacks and a die-in along the sidewalk outside the Pasquella building entrance of the hospital. The die-in lasted for four minutes and 30 seconds, representing the four hours and thirty minutes Brown lay on the sidewalk after being shot by Officer Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014.
Pappas stressed the importance of the protest coming from medical students to raise awareness to racial injustices in the health system, in addition to the criminal justice system.
“Specifically we’re here as a medical school and a medical community,” Pappas said. “We’re here to recognize that we work inside a system that’s structurally designed to create a lot of these health disparities that we constantly see.”
“We just wanted to express to the public that as future doctors, we are dedicated to closing the gap, the disparity in health care across different races that they face right now,” Yoon added after the protest.
Pappas also drew attention to the university’s Jesuit identity as fueling the movement.
“We’re here at Georgetown, at a Jesuit university, and we’re supposed to be men and women for others. Being men and women for others, these are things that we should all be concerned about,” he said.
The die-in was chosen by the students for both practical and symbolic reasons.
“On a practical level, people look at a bunch of people lying on the ground in white coats, and they think, what the heck is going on?” Pappas said after the protest. “That’s the point of this: to get people thinking about why. And then the symbolism between how long Michael Brown’s body was left on the ground, the idea of rising back up to address racial inequality in our society, there’s a lot of symbolism that goes along with the die-in.”
The protest comes amid a series of student movements responding to the Ferguson ruling and the Garner case, with undergraduate students conducting their own die-in at the Christmas tree lighting in Dahlgren Quad last Saturday night and students at the law center filing an open letter to criticize the center’s silence on the grand jury decisions. The medical students explained that the protests were all in response to a single societal problem, using the slogan “#BlackLivesMatter” as part of their protest to link the cases together.