By Rebekah Russell, Third-Year Medical Student
For me, Black Resistance is an active process taken to refuse subjugation, injustice, inequity, and stagnation wherever they may be found. It is an active effort to evolve and evaluate the plight of our most vulnerable people and to rebalance the scales of power so that all people can truly have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For me, when I think of holding space as a form of resistance, I am reminded of a quote by Frederick Douglass, which states, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” This is an important quote, because I believe that the struggle comes from the need to sacrifice something. Whether it be time, money, resources, or our place in the social hierarchy, there will be a struggle or sacrifice to achieve equity in medicine, and we all must become comfortable with our role in the journey for change.
As I think about holding space for others, I think about an obstetrician–gynecologist mentor of mine who always says that she seeks to replace herself within the field of medicine and encourages her colleagues to replace themselves. I think this is an important approach to consider, and I would like to delve into it deeper, as I think it is extremely important to this year’s theme for Black History Month. For those pursuing a career in medicine, it is a constant state of progressing from one stage to the next. You go from a premed student to a medical student to a resident, possibly to a fellow, to an attending, and then to the end of your career. To hold space as a form of resistance, I would argue that we could start by making sure there is no space left open.
As a Black medical student, I have ensured and will continue to ensure that someone else fills my “seat at the table.” I have done this by being involved with my school’s admissions committee, serving on my institution’s chapter of the Student National Medical Association and the Latino Medical Student Association, serving on the Region V executive board for the Student National Medical Association, facilitating mentorship for and being a mentor to students underrepresented in medicine, and ensuring that I promote diversity in any space that I enter. Residents, attendings or otherwise, have held space for me by inviting me into research projects, advising student groups, checking on me during rotations, or simply offering a friendly smile in the hallway. My institution has held space for me and others by being open to feedback and responding to feedback, hiring faculty and staff that look like me, hiring allies, and allocating monetary resources so that students with financial needs can pursue professional development opportunities. Though these are only a few examples, an important theme is that they are all active, intentional, and goal oriented.
It is time that we stop discussing the need for equity in medicine and act, especially when data have shown that minority patients fare better when taken care of by minority physicians. A tenet of medicine is “do no harm”—and yet by being passive in the fight for equity, we are indeed doing harm. I encourage individuals and institutions to take this year’s theme of Black Resistance as an opportunity to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that racial and ethnic equity exists within medicine and that there are no spaces left open.
The theme for Black History Month 2023 is Black Resistance. This February, ACOG wants to hear from our members about how they’ve created, benefited from, or seen the need for space to resist racism and work toward equity in medicine or in their institution. Email [email protected] to share a story in the form of a written essay, visual art, or a video.