Juneteenth: A Day of Reflection

Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Dear Colleagues,

Juneteenth marks the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States until 1865. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had outlawed slavery two years earlier, but enforcement of the proclamation generally relied upon the advance of Union troops. Texas, as the most remote of the states that allowed slavery, did not end slavery until a Union Army general proclaimed freedom from slavery on June 19, 1865, a date that has since been celebrated as Juneteenth. The first celebrations of the day started in 1866.

Our message last year on the occasion of Columbia University’s first official Juneteenth holiday reflected concern about a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color and a recognition of structural racism further highlighted by the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement. It also reflected our aspirations to be agents of change, to assume a leadership role in building the kind of medical center that not only talks about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, but lives it every day while educating the next generation of health care professionals, caring for patients, seeking new treatments and scientific discoveries, and being a good neighbor. The name of Bard Hall was changed, with our gratitude to Dr. Ray Givens.

Although we have made progress over the past year, much remains to be done. Last summer and fall, a large CUIMC-wide task force spent hundreds of hours developing recommendations about how we teach, conduct research, care for patients, and interact with our neighborhood and city. Hundreds more hours have been put in to begin implementing these recommendations. This work will continue over the remainder of this year and in the years ahead, and we will continue to provide updates on our progress.

We invite everyone in the CUIMC community to observe the Juneteenth holiday as a time of reflection and resolve. Each of us must contribute in our own way to help our nation move toward a more equitable society.

Anil K. Rustgi, MD

Interim Executive Vice President and

Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine

Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH

Dean, Mailman School of Public Health

Senior Vice President, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent

Dean, College of Dental Medicine

Senior Vice President, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Lorraine Frazier, RN, PhD

Dean, School of Nursing

Senior Vice President, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

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