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June 9, 2020

By Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science staff

From leadership of Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science

Dear Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science students, residents, and fellows:

We are all stunned and deeply saddened by the tragic news of Mr. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The shocking video shows this African American man being abusively held down by a Minneapolis police officer by kneeling on his neck. As this man suffers and begs for his life, three other police officers stand around and do nothing to help. Judging by his floppy body, Mr. Floyd was profoundly incapacitated when he was placed onto the EMS stretcher.

Mr. Floyd’s death, acts of hatred in Orlando, Georgia, the Tree of Life Synagogue, Texas, Charlottesville, Ferguson, and many, many others all demonstrate that bigotry and hatred is alive in our country. As our Arizona-based learners can attest, COVID-19 has disproportionally affected the disadvantaged Navajo nation — yet another example of health inequity. Sadly, Mr. Floyd reminds us that although our country has made major advances in civil and human rights, we all have significant work to do on so many levels to fight hatred, bigotry, and violence.

We are fortunate to learn, live, and work at Mayo Clinic in which all are welcome as students, patients, and employees irrespective of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I am reminded by the fact that both Dr. W.W. Mayo and Dr. Will Mayo had a bust of Lincoln on their desks symbolizing our institutional commitment to equality. This is a core value of Mayo Clinic and our college. Mayo Clinic is a just culture, and we cherish and respect diversity and inclusiveness for our entire learning community. If you ever feel unsafe or threatened, please let your dean, chair, program director, or school administrator know immediately.

When I was growing up, Bobby Kennedy was one of my family's heroes. As U.S. attorney general, he was a strong advocate for civil rights. In this time of terrible strife, anger, mistrust, and hatred in our country, I am reminded of a powerful speech that Bobby Kennedy gave spontaneously on the back of a pickup truck when he learned of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He, like his brother President John Kennedy, and Dr. King, were all assassinated for the truth they spoke about human decency, civil rights, and a humane society.

It is probable that you have never seen this video, but I would suggest that you view this via YouTube when time permits. Bobby Kennedy’s words are as relevant today as they were decades ago. I just watched it again while writing this note and am severely distraught that 50 years later the same hatred that killed Dr. King, killed Mr. Floyd.

If you want to listen to greatness, his speech on humanity, mindless violence, and affirmation is powerful.

As Mayo Clinic students, residents, and fellows in all four schools (graduate medical education, graduate school, health sciences, and medical school), you are the next generation of health care leaders and therefore, you must always stand up for human decency and universal rights. Protect the disadvantaged. Fight bigotry. Fight hatred. Adhere to our Mayo Clinic values throughout your life.

We have a dedicated Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion led by Dr. Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso and Ms. Barbara Jordan who are committed to this effort and always available. Please know that you have, at your reach, our Mayo Clinic leadership, including Dr. Farrugia and Mr. Bolton, deans, faculty, and administrative staff at all sites who are committed to your education, academic success, personal growth, wellness, and safety.

Respectfully yours,

Fredric Meyer, M.D.
Executive Dean, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science

Scott Seinola
Chair, Education Administration

From leadership of Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is committed to inclusion of all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. We will not stand for racism, hate, bias, or bigotry against our students, patients, or our community. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other people of color would be alive if not for fear and hate, along with deep-seated bias.

The outrage everyone feels now must be used to effect change and the burden is on all of us. This is a public health crisis that we can end together. To our colleagues who feel they do not know what to do: become aware of the issues, speak up, and teach others. The reality is that people are not treated equally or fairly, but they should be. Use your voice to help others. Demonstrate this behavior. Use the resources below to learn more.

Most importantly, end the silence. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Students, we are here for you. Let us know how you are doing and what you need. We will be providing a list of resources for you with information on local events, movements, and reading.

Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D.
Associate Dean, Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Barbara Jordan
Administrator, Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

From Michele Halyard, M.D., dean of the Arizona campus of Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine

Dear students,

I am writing to share with you my thoughts about the Minneapolis uprising that is occurring in the face of the death of George Floyd. As one of the few senior African American leaders at Mayo, I thought it important to share my views. Some of you may wonder why I have not shared my views earlier this week as did other institutional leaders. Truth be told, I have been processing a number of complex feelings not only this week but for quite some time. Actually, the processing has its roots back to the mid-1960s as I remember the race riots so close to my home, and I have watched inequities persist for all of my life. It has driven me to become the person, the physician I am today.

As an African American woman, wife of a retired assistant police chief, mother of three children including two sons, a physician, an engaged community member and as a leader, truthfully my thoughts and emotions have been all over the place, as have those of many of my fellow African Americans. I have experienced everything from outrage to pure rage, sadness to despair, tears to rants, and paralysis to action back to numb disbelief.

You see, as a person of color, and as a physician, I cannot help but despair when I see the videos of a helpless Black man have his life taken from him in what I, and many, consider a senseless act. I cannot help but think that one day that could be one of my sons. I cannot help but think that were it not for the fact that my husband was in law enforcement and carries a retiree badge with him, that could be him on the ground lying dead. I cannot help but think this is going to happen over and over and over again unless something seriously changes in this country. Until the humanity of each and every person is seen regardless of the color of their skin, or their religious background, or their country of origin, this will happen over and over and over. Until we stop dividing, people will die over and over and over again.

So, what do I have to say to you as students? I say that you are the future. You as future physicians hold the power in your hands to make life and death decisions. You hold the power to listen to or not to listen to those patients sitting in front of you and really hear and see them as people — not as white people or people of color or as people of different nationalities or socioeconomic status — but as just people in need of our help.

You have the power, and the responsibility, to learn about conscious and unconscious biases, which we all hold (me included), and to challenge yourself each and every day to rise above these biases to be the best physicians we can be for our patients and society. You have the power and the responsibility to not just learn about health inequities in medical school but to do something to help. You have the absolute responsibility to speak up against injustice, health inequities, violence against others, and to not only just speak up but to take action. In big ways and small, your voice, your actions will make a difference.

So what am I doing you might ask, besides writing to you, to make a difference? In many ways, all I want to do is just go outside and scream at the top of my lungs at the injustices and divisions we see day after day. But I, instead, am channeling my energy into my community service work by planning COVID-19 town halls for the Black community, where health inequities have been exposed and hospitalizations and mortality rates are staggering compared to the majority population. I continue my work trying to support Black breast cancer survivors and promote screening and treatment within our community to hopefully one day impact the lower survival rates compared to the majority population. I plan to call political leaders and candidates and ask where are their voices about injustice as we see Minneapolis burn, Phoenix hold protests, and Kentucky riot over the death of yet another unarmed Black person by police. This is how I handle my disappointment, my anger, my despair. I look to each of you to truly make a difference so that future generations will not have a tear in their eye like I have in mine today.

Thanks for listening.

Michele Halyard, M.D.
Dean, Arizona campus, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine

From Sharonne Hayes, M.D., medical director for Mayo Clinic Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Timely resources from Diversity Best Practices (Mayo Clinic are members):



Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children



Films and TV series

  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
  • Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
  • King In The Wilderness — HBO
  • See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

Organizations to follow on social media

More anti-racism resources to check out

Materials compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein in May 2020.

Mayo Clinic resources

These links require that you be on campus or VPN.