We join all Americans in mourning the victims of this week’s horrific shootings in Atlanta. We don’t need authorities to formally declare a motive to know in our hearts that these were clearly hate crimes, perhaps driven by multiple pathologies.
For now, however, the motive is not the most important thing. The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is in acute pain. This almost feels inevitable following a full year of scapegoating, hate speech, and physical attacks, layered with all-too-easy access to weapons of extreme violence. An entire community is feeling extremely vulnerable. We all are.
Like all public health matters, the roots of violence are complex—but they are treatable. It starts with a commitment from every leader to make a concerted effort to detoxify public dialogue. Earlier this week, the APhA House of Delegates approved policy on racism that is even more relevant today than it was when we discussed it on Monday:
- APhA denounces all forms of racism.
- APhA affirms that racism is a social determinant of health that contributes to persistent health inequities.
- APhA urges the entire pharmacy community to actively work to dismantle racism.
- APhA urges the integration of antiracism education into pharmacy curricula, postgraduate training, and continuing education requirements.
- APhA urges pharmacy leaders, decision-makers, and employers to create sustainable opportunities and incentives, as well as initiatives in education, research, and practice, to address racism.
- APhA urges pharmacy leaders, decision-makers, and employers to perform routine and systematic evaluations of their organizational policies and programs to assess their impact on racial inequities.
On a related note, the House also recommended that all pharmacy organizations incorporate training on harassment, intimidation, and abuse into their education and professional development activities.
APhA’s Task Force on Structural Racism in Pharmacy, chaired by Trustee Andrew Gentles, PharmD, BCPS-AQ ID, has been working since last year to guide APhA and the profession on the creation of policy, communications, and activities geared at dismantling racial injustice. At our Annual Meeting this past weekend, the task force held an incredible town hall where dozens of people shared how racism and bias have affected their lives and their colleagues’ lives. To me, it felt like we were finally exposing to sunlight the toxic issues that have troubled many pharmacists for generations.
But that’s only a start; there’s a lot more work to do. You will hear more from Dr. Gentles and the task force in the coming months. And you can be assured that this will be at the forefront throughout my term as your president. I welcome your feedback, observations, and suggestions.
Sandra Leal, PharmD, MPH, FAPhA, CDCES