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Why Racial Justice Matters in Radiation Oncology

Abstract

Recent events have reaffirmed that racism is a pervasive disease plaguing the United States, infiltrating the fabric of this nation. As healthcare professionals dedicated to understanding and alleviating disease, many radiation oncologists have failed to acknowledge how structural racism impacts the health and well-being of the patients we aim to serve. The literature is full of descriptive statistics showing the higher incidence and mortality experienced by Blacks for health conditions ranging from infant mortality to infectious disease, including COVID19. Acknowledgement that the root of health disparities experienced by Blacks in this country is based in racism is essential to moving the nation and the field of radiation oncology forward. With this lens, a brief overview of structural and institutional racism shapes a discussion of what radiation oncologists and the organizations that represent them can do to address this scourge. As members of a technological field, we often harness the power of data to advance human health and approach challenging diseases with optimism that multidisciplinary effort can produce cure. A few principles to mitigate the longstanding issues of Black marginalization within the field have been recommended, via the ATIP and LEADS approaches. However, additional introspection is encouraged. Just as individuals, practices and organizations rallied to determine how best to address the issues related to the COVID19 pandemic, the same investigational fervor must be applied to the issue of racism in order to combat this sinister and often deadly disease.

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Related Author

Curtiland Deville, Jr, MD

Curtiland Deville, Jr, MD

 

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