By Joan Grzybowski, DO, FACOFP

What is violence? It is the unjust use of power.

In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. Four days later, the Montgomery bus boycott was staged, lasting from December 1955 to December 1956. African Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama to protest segregated seating. One of the leaders of that boycott was a young pastor named Martin Luther King, Jr. People and their names make a difference in history.

Why do I bring this up 65 years later? Because of an individual named George Floyd—a Black man who was tragically killed just a couple of weeks ago, as a result of an egregious misuse of power.

As osteopathic physicians and as humans, we need to speak out in unison against violence of all sorts. The individual human rights of each person need to be held sacred. The serious health disparities that exist across racial lines, ethnicities, sexual orientation, low economic status and religion need to be addressed with all we have to give. We need to take our words to the ears of our state and national leaders.

Those with the greatest health inequalities have lost trust in our health system. Some patients may face multiple additional barriers that limit their willingness and ability to receive adequate health care. Not all patients have the same, safe and convenient access to care. We might prescribe medications that many cannot afford. We order tests that other patients have trouble scheduling because of work or family obligations. The list goes on.

We need to have empathy for the diverse situations faced by our patients and work to find ways to break down the barriers to acceptable health care for all—in particular, our underserved and underrepresented populations.

Violence clearly affects the physical, emotional and spiritual health of all persons, especially minority populations. It affects our public health system. The names of George Floyd and all victims of all kinds of violence need to be remembered as a force to end violence. It cannot wait any longer. They are gone, but their deaths need to bring meaning and solutions to the problems that exist in our society and our health care system.

With great hope for our society.

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