Northland healthcare professionals show support in White Coats for Black Lives effort

Updated: June 05, 2020 06:23 PM

Northland healthcare professionals united in a powerful movement called White Coats for Black Lives Friday afternoon at the Essentia West Duluth clinic to show their support for the black community.


"We're hoping to show our community that we recognize that a lot of change still needs to occur and that as healthcare professionals, we can come together and show them that we've recognized this for a long time," said Dr. Nicole Groeschl, the organizer of the event.

Groeschl of Essentia Health united her colleagues in the medical field in this powerful effort, where they expressed their support for the black community in a moving moment of silence.

Medical workers from the Lake Superior Community Health Center and St. Luke's Denfeld Medical Clinic were there. As well as physician assistant students from the College of St. Scholastica.

"We know that racism is a health risk. It's unhealthy for patients to treat them differently based on the color of their skin. We're just here to show support for them," said Dr. Jane Rudd of Essentia. "We're concerned with the COVID-19 pandemic that people of color are suffering actually more than others. There's a disparity in healthcare for people of color and I just want to be there to show them that we care and support them."

One by one, they got on their knee, holding signs saying "I Can't Breathe" and "White Coats for Black Lives."  They did this for nine minutes, which is the same amount of time George Floyd was on the ground fighting for his life.

"It felt really nice to be amongst my colleagues and to really have a show of support for the black community and to feel like we're doing it together. Also, kneeling for that long, it's actually pretty hard to do and I think it just gives you the time to reflect on the gravity of what's been happening," said Teja Dyamenahalli, an Essentia Health St. Mary's Children's Hospital pediatric hospitalist.

"Just spending that amount of time kneeling on one knee and one ankle cramping up is uncomfortable. I can't imagine what it's like to not be able to breathe for that long. It's eye-opening in that way," said Nathan Lehman, a CSS physician assistant student.

Lehman said he wanted to participate because he feels like he's been standing on the sidelines for too long.

"I've dug deeper into black history over the last five to 10 years and I've seen a very clear pattern of systemic oppression and forceful submission of black people into what America wants them to be rather than letting them thrive on their own," said Lehman.

Those who were driving by honked and waved at them, showing support for the message the medical workers were sending to the community about putting an end to the injustice among the black community.

"We have chosen a field of service and to be in that field of service it means to provide for everyone no matter what race or color and I think that by standing together as healthcare providers we are showing that solidarity of service," said Jennifer Senn, a CSS physician assistant student.

"We all have black colleagues, friends, family members, neighbors, and patients and we want them to know that that we hear them. We're ready to do what we need to do to make their lives better because no one should have a different life just because of the color of their skin," said Groeschl.

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