AAO, physician groups decry racism, discrimination, violence

June 2, 2020
David Hutton

As protests continue to take place in cities across the United States in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis, MN, police officer, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and other physician groups are stepping up to add their voices to groups calling for an end to racism and discrimination.

As protests continue to take place in cities across the United States in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis, MN, police officer, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and other physician groups are stepping up to add their voices to groups calling for an end to racism and discrimination.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s (AAO) leadership team issued a statement on the topic earlier this week.

“The American Academy of Ophthalmology deplores the senseless death of George Floyd and others under similar circumstances,” the statement read. “We also abhor their tragic sequelae-violence, injuries and loss of life. We know that our patients and colleagues share anger, sadness and frustration over these recent events.”

In the statement, AAO stressed its continued commitment to inclusion, to the richness of a diverse society and to the principles of human dignity and societal equality.

“The profession of ophthalmology and individual ophthalmologists are committed to providing compassionate, equitable and outstanding care for all patients and communities,” the leadership team concluded. “We rededicate ourselves individually and collectively to that mission and to building a society of fairness, justice and opportunity for all. There is no place for racism.”

The statement was signed by AAO President Anne L. Coleman, MD; AAO President-Elect Tamara R. Fountain, MD; Academy Past-President George A. Williams, MD; and Academy CEO David W. Parke II, MD, for the Board of Trustees of the Academy.

Physician groups issue statements

Statements also were issued over the weekend from Gary L. LeRoy, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and Heather E. Gantzer, MD, FACP, chair of the Board of Regents for the American College of Physicians (ACP). They spoke out against racism and discrimination in all its form, but particularly as it relates to police violence against African Americans.

“It is evident that African-Americans in particular are at risk of being subjected to discrimination and violence against them because of their race, endangering them and even costing them their lives,” Gantzer said in the statement. “This should never be acceptable and those responsible must be held accountable. ACP has long held that hate crimes, prejudice, discrimination, harassment and violence against any person based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, or country of origin is a public health issue.”

“What is happening in our communities today, and what has been happening in our country for decades, is unacceptable,” LeRoy said in his statement. “As a health care organization, the AAFP considers racism a public health crisis. The elimination of health disparities will not be achieved without first acknowledging racism’s contribution to health and social inequalities. This includes inequitable access to quality health care services.”

Floyd died while in police custody May 25, after officers took him into custody following a call from a grocery store reporting that he was believed to have committed forgery. During the arrest, Officer Derek Chauvin sat with a knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

According to media reports, during the final two or three minutes, Floyd was unconscious. Once video of the incident went viral, Chauvin and three other officers present at the arrest were fired from the department. Chauvin would later be taken into custody and charged with murder and manslaughter.

The death of Floyd has led to widespread protests across the world, but especially in the United States, which have led to violent clashes between police and protesters. Looting has also occurred in a number of cities, though media reports have shown protesters trying to block potential looters from entering some stores. Curfews have been declared in more than two dozen cities across the country.

“The issue of how to ensure that policing does not result in discriminatory enforcement and violence is a multifaceted and complex one,” Gantzer said in the statement. “While we caution against generalizing the egregious actions of some to all or most, a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to understanding and implementing solutions to discriminatory actions and violence against others is imperative, even as individuals who commit such acts and others with decision-making authority must be held accountable for their own actions.”

“It is incumbent upon all of us to engage in an honest discussion about how to ensure that health outcomes and personal safety are not determined by the color of a person’s skin,” LeRoy concluded.

Related Content:

News