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Archive July 2020 XXI, No. 7

Standing Together

Surgical professionals share their experiences of racism and express hope for a more inclusive future.

Outpatient Surgery Editors

BIO

The following firsthand accounts are real, raw and at times disturbing. They pull back the curtain on the everyday experiences of minorities in surgery and spotlight how various forms of discrimination manifest in ways both big and small. The brave providers who lent their voices to these pages want to raise awareness of systemic racism in health care and inspire a deeper understanding of how it impacts people of color who have dedicated their lives to caring for patients. They want to increase diversity, inclusion and acceptance in the profession they love. Their willingness to speak up inspires and shows that remaining silent about racial injustice is no longer an option. The conversation starts now. OSM

I Want to be a Person of Change

Ari Collins, SA-C/CST
Ari Collins, SA-C/CST

I'm fully aware of my blackness in a predominantly white work environment. Through-out my almost 20-year career in surgery, I've often been the only Black person in the OR. In most places I work, you can count on one hand the number of African Americans in the entire perioperative services environment.

I feel a constant pressure to not allow my true feelings to show, to suppress my emotions just to get through the day. I've felt that way for 18 years while working in surgery. That's my reality. It's exhausting.

I've faced racism numerous times during my career. A surgical retractor at a hospital I once worked at was nicknamed "Little Blackie" on preference cards because of its size and black coating. The staff didn't understand why I was offended, so I had to educate them about the name's derogatory connotation. To their credit, they immediately renamed the device.

I was a neurosurgery coordinator for 15 years at a pediatric hospital. During a holiday party attended by more than 100 guests, I was the only African American in the room. A woman approached and asked if I was one of the surgeon's secretaries.

"I've considered leaving this environment numerous times, but I keep showing up because patient care is my calling."

I once arrived at a new facility to train as a surgical assistant student. When I walked into an OR to help start a case, a nurse directed me to two rooms that needed to be cleaned. Her whole demeanor changed when the surgeon greeted me warmly and she realized I didn't work for environmental services.

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