More Integrative Responses to the Outing of Systemic Racism: Signs of Being Woke – But Are We Getting Out of Bed?

More Integrative Responses to the Outing of Systemic Racism: Signs of Being Woke – But Are We Getting Out of Bed?

A week after the murder of George Floyd, I published brief accounts of some of the integrative health community’s response. I quickly learned that I’d missed statements from some key players. Subsequently, many others were called to make statements. These are evidence that some of white people – and most in the integrative fields are white – in present day parlance, that some are “woke” or waking. The next question, as interviewer Brian Carter put it during a June 21 Seattle Arts & Lectures dialogue with Emory University professor Carol Anderson, author of White Rage and One Person: No Vote, is: “They may be woke – but are they getting out of bed?” There are signs below among some of new actions to make sure there is ongoing, systemic engagement to address the chronic, systemic abuses, micro and macro. Here is a second overview, with links where available. The good news is that many show signs of getting out of bed . Many were called to make public commitments. (In addition, for reference, a include links to two statements from organizations in the dominant school of medicine.)

Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine

AIHM’s leadership is prominent among the co-signers of the statement prepared via the Consciousness and Healing Initiative and sahred last issue, “Healing Our Nation: Addressing Systemic Trauma with Communities of Color.” On June 7, 2020 AIHM had sent their own AIHM statement. It led with a bold “We Stand With You”. The accent in the statement, signed by their board members and staff, is on listening closely to the stories of those on the receiving end of the racist aggressions. The interprofessional organization affirmed a “commitment to being part of a long-term solution and we welcome ideas from our community.” AIHM’s first step, on June 13, was the “first of a series of community video calls to begin that work – to listen, hold space, share resources and discuss meaningful action that our integrative community can take to stop racism and actively support the BIPOC community.” As a participant listener, it was a powerful opportunity to hear again the variations on a challening theme of seem of seeing what may have been unseen, hearing what may have been unheard, that heard here from a solid group of AIHM’s black members begin to map the meaning of “systemic.”

Midwifery Education and Accreditation Council

The sister organization to the National Association for Certified Professional Midwives, the organization in the integrative health space that has most deeply engaged race and equity issues (see prior article grouping statement), MEAC is all in on a similarly rich path of engagement. In a letter to its list, MEAC starts with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” They then share their elaborate “MEAC Equity Statement” with its preamble and 6 core points. The communication concludes with a set of action steps already taken in which they put their money and time where their mouths are. For instance:

  • In 2018, MEAC formulated a vision as part of a 3-5-year strategic plan to “infuse equity, access, and justice into the foundations of midwifery education and accreditation”.
  • In 2019, MEAC dedicated over 10% of its annual budget to equity and access expenses.
  • MEAC board members and staff participated in an extensive Equity and Access program (Project X) during the in-person board meeting in 2019.
  • MEAC continues the Project X training during board meetings.
  • MEAC has added an Equity & Access module as part of the board member and staff onboarding.
  • MEAC has increased its donation revenue in order to reduce sustaining fees for schools and to ease the financial burden for MEAC accredited schools.

Institute for Functional Medicine

The June 3 statement from IFM’s CEO Amy Mack was entitled “A Letter From IFM CEO: Our Responsibility to Change.” Mack spoke directly to her community: “As a community of healers, we can and must do better.” She goes on, in part: “While as individuals we enter this work with different experiences, I ask that you join me in truly committing to making meaningful, long-term contributions to change. I encourage you to be vulnerable, identify your own beliefs, challenge your own thinking, and restore balance to your individual character.” Mack closes with a commitment from IFM: “In return, I commit IFM to be a leader of change as well. Reaffirming IFM’s values to lead, collaborate, innovate, and inspire, we commit energy and our voice to eradicating conscious and unconscious bias, seeking more diverse leadership for IFM and the functional medicine field, and expanding the reach of functional medicine to the underserved. As leaders of the functional medicine movement, we must require this change not only in ourselves but in our community. As healers, we give voice to the individual and change behavior through relationships—actions that are critically necessary to the change we seek to lead. Together, we stand strong in our responsibility and commitment to this work.”

Center for Mind-Body Medicine

The statement from CMBM is headed: “Our Commitment to Healing the Wounds of Racism, Oppression and Inequity.” The organization, led by integrative psychiatrist James Gordon, MD, has decades of investment in addressing trauma in multiple communities, including indigenous peoples of what is now North America, and with Palestinians, Syrians, and Haitians. The letter, signed by Gordon, includes 4 commitments, and details on each:

  • Broaden and deepen our understanding of the influence of race and ethnicity on the way we experience ourselves, one another, and the world around us.
  • Sharpen our focus in our ongoing programs and devote significantly more of our resources to work with communities of color
  • Enhance minority hiring and foster and support the development of minority faculty
  • Reach out to and collaborate with groups around the country and around the world that are addressing systemic health, education, housing, and voting rights, as well as health and mental health inequities, and abuse by police.

Consciousness and Healing Initiative

On June 8, founder Shamini Jain references CHI’s widely endorsed letter focused on “addressing systemic trauma with communities of color” and “restorative justice” by sharing with colleagues some “intermediate steps” the organization is taking: “I’ve been dialoguing with Jude Currivan (who also signed our letter) who is helping lead World Unity Week coming up this month.  As part of CHI’s offering we will facilitate a panel on indigenous healing perspectives as they relate to restorative justice.  That certainly seems like a fitting start for CHI’s contributions toward unraveling systemic racism and integrating healing wisdom in the process.  I am personally very excited about facilitating deeper national discussions on the origins, promise and application of restorative justice.  Our colleagues and co-signers of this joint letter, Tasreen Khamisa and Azim Khamisa, know this work well and apply it to at-risk youth. CHI sent an additional letter to members  that included multiple voices related to racism and restorative justice, including a blog post from author Larry Dossey, MD on Medical Racism.

Maryland University of Integrative Health

The “Presidential Statement of Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement” from Marc Levin includes a direct promise “to do more than send out an email with words of support for those who are suffering and those fighting for change.” Among the promises in the open letter to the MUIH community are these:

  • We will  hire an outside expert to help us develop and implement a process to do this open and honest self-assessment and discovery to look into areas including institutional bias, implied bias, systemic racism, inequities, and support for African-Americans and other minorities impacted by these inequities.
  • We will evaluate our curriculum … We plan to address how our curriculum relates to anti-racism and builds intercultural competency. The University Curriculum Committee, in collaboration with members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, will establish a working group to develop a plan on how to incorporate anti-racism education and build intercultural competency throughout program curricula …This plan will be presented to the Provost for formal approval by the beginning of the fall trimester and a summary of the approved plan will be made public at that time.

American Holistic Nurses Association

On June 11, the AHNA released a “Position Statement on Racism and Racial Inequality” to show “our solidarity with those who are courageously condemning racism and discrimination. The membership grieves with those who have suffered the violence and even murder as a result entrenched in social misunderstanding, hatred and fear.” The statement quotes Barry Gallison, DNP, MS, APRN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, AHN-BC, AHNA President noting, among other things, that “going forward, we can and must heal by embracing our common humanity and interconnectedness.” AHNA is committed to “reaching out to other nursing specialties to co-create strategies to increase diversity within nursing, create a culture of justice and equality, and deliver compassionate and effective healthcare services to those entrusted to our care.”

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

The AANP issued a statement shortly after Floyd’s murder, included in the last piece. On June 10 they took a next step with an online dialogue involving: the AANP’s first black president, immediate past president Jaquel Patterson, ND, MBA; trauma psychiatrist and race expert Alauna Curry, MD; plus, unusually, naturopathic leader who offer an apology for comments in social media experienced by others as racist. (The moderator was Natural Medicine Institute president Rick Kirschner, ND.)  The organization then linked members to a slide show with findings from its 2018 Diversity + Inclusion Survey. The organization’s Diversity + Inclusion Committee had recently met to re-prioritize its work plan and set new action steps including:

  • Develop a formal Position Paper to serve as the AANP’s official stand on health equity, diversity, and cultural competency
  • Foster workshops, dialogue, and self-examination within the community to address prejudices, biases and assumptions that contribute to racism and discrimination;
  • Coordinate development of profession-wide guiding principles for addressing race and health disparities with all the national, state and academic institutions through the Naturopathic Coordinating Council (NCC)
  • Add a panel discussion to the AANP’s Virtual Conference on health equity and disparities
  • Launch a professional development series for the fall to begin incorporating regular learning opportunities to address health equity, diversity, and cultural competency.

Society for Integrative Oncology

In a statement from its executive committee, SIO shared some of its credo, including: “We stand in solidarity with peaceful protests against racism in any form. As a global and diverse society of integrative healthcare professionals, patient advocates, researchers and students, we advance integrative oncology with respect and attention to the needs of people from all cultures.” The organization focused on the chasms of health disparities and made a commitment: “SIO takes its role in addressing health disparities seriously; through charitable giving and scholarships, promoting diversity in our members and leadership, and focusing part of our SIO 2020 Annual Meeting to health disparities, we hope to help in the global effort against racism, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Integrative Medicine for the Underserved

IM4US issued a statement “Calling for Justice and Action Against Police Violence.” The rare integrative organization with its foundation in a commitment “to diversity and advancing health equity,” pledged “to stay firmly planted in the fight to end structural racism, particularly as it pertains to the social determinants of health.  We pledge to keep you informed of the ways that IM4US continues to work toward these goals, and welcome the contributions and efforts of all our members.” They urge commitment to practices urged by Rachel Hardeman, PhD, MPH:

UCLA Arts & Healing

The creative arts therapy educational and consulting non-profit begins its statement of solidarity with brief sketches of multiple ways demonstrators have used painting, song, and dance to celebrate the opening and gains regarding structural awareness: in DC, demonstrators joining to sing “lean on Me,” in Puerto Rico a young girl’s Bomba dancing at a rally, in multiple cities painting Black Lives Matter on streets and adorning walls and signs with expressions of hope and demand.

The statement from the organization’s staff closes by sharing that “to honor the Black experience, and to support the global racial awakening, we have compiled a list of race and equity resources, and we are offering five new, free sessions as part of our HOPE Series.”

National University of Natural Medicine

The statement from NUNM president Christine Gerard, ND, MPH speaks to “the imperative to evaluate and actively renew our commitment to equity and social change.” The decisions of the board include:

  • Expanding opportunities for NUNM students by offering new degree programs that focus on creating meaningful social change locally and
  • Investing in the success of students, faculty, and staff by creating an intentional plan that will include enhanced advising and mentorship, requiring curriculum centered on Race and Disparities in Healthcare, educating faculty on how to create a “just classroom”, and working with admissions and human resources to increase the diversity of our student body, staff, and faculty.

An administrator clarified that on the final bullet point “much of the work referenced is ongoing in coordination with our Office of Equity and Inclusion.” A Race and Disparities in Healthcare course will be offered this fall.

American Botanical Council

On June 19, 2020, ABC issue a notice stating that “ABC Supports Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday.” The announcement opened with the bold, 3-lined statement shared here. The statement in its entirety is: “As a Texas-based international organization, we at the American Botanical Council have long known about the significance of this day, Juneteenth, the day on June 19, 1865 that news of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (issued almost two-and-a-half years earlier in January 1863) reached GalvestonTexas. The news finally emancipated slaves who were still toiling under severe hardships in Texas. ABC supports making this important day a new national holiday as well as all appropriate efforts to ensure full access to all the freedoms and Constitutional rights for all Americans.”

Note: There have certainly been statements and commitments and actions from other integrative organizations and institutions not collected here. (One, for instance, was a follow-up announcement from the International Association of Yoga Therapists, whose early statement was noted in the first in this series, that they held their first “virtual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion town hall on June 28 to connect and build a sense of belonging and purpose with our community.” That others are not included is no indication that no statement has been made nor commitments engaged. As my own commitment, I will check on in these organizations in the fall to see what steps have been completed, lessons learned, and new actions engaged.

From the Dominant School of Medicine

For reference, here are two from among the most powerful organizations in the medical industry relative to education and delivery.

Association of American Medical Colleges

The AAMC Statement on Police Brutality and Racism in America and Their Impact on Health has been endorsed by a set of its partners from the field of psychiatry. It includes 7 bullet points including these more action-oriented:

  • We must be deliberate and partner with local communities, public health agencies, and municipal governments to dismantle structural racism and end police brutality.
  • We must employ anti-racist and unconscious bias training and engage in interracial dialogues that will dispel the misrepresentations that dehumanize our Black community members and other marginalized groups.
  • We must move from rhetoric to action to eliminate the inequities in our care, research, and education of tomorrow’s doctors.

Institute for Healthcare Improvement

IHI’s e-notice was headlined “In Solidarity against Racial Injustice” and immediately expresses “outrage” concluding the first paragraph with: “The systematic oppression and dehumanization of Black people and communities of color by White-dominated systems and institutions must end. And we all must act to end it.” Their action steps bullet point are addressed “to our white colleagues” and include:

  • Educate yourself about racism; understand it and start to dismantle White supremacy culture
  • Sit with the discomfort you’re feeling, reflecting on your own privilege
  • Take action to help repair and heal our systems and communities by using your power in your sphere of influence to advance equity
  • Understand that trust, once lost, takes time and significant effort to rebuild; commit to earning trust every day through action and changed behavior
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