White Coats for Black Lives: Burlington healthcare workers take a knee in solidarity

Local News

BURLINGTON, Vt. – On Friday afternoon, healthcare professionals in Burlington joined colleagues from across the nation in silent reflection on the death of George Floyd.

Over 100 nurses, doctors, professors, medical workers and security guards took part, kneeling on the concrete walkway between Dana Medical Library and Converse Hall at the Larner College of Medicine.

They remained kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds – a very specific period of time intended to symbolize the minutes George Floyd spent pinned under the knee of former officer Derek Chauvin.

It was a protest that didn’t require chants or speeches, just healthcare professionals coming together with a clear message: “White Coats Support Black Lives.”

“Hundreds of faculty, medical students, and residents all in one place, and again, this is Burlington, mostly Caucasian,” said Dr. Macaulay Onuigbo, a Professor of Medicine at the Larner College of Medicine. “The outpouring of support from white Americans, it gives you all the hope in the world.”

Participants said they kneeled for their patients, colleagues, family, friends and the entire community. Dr. Amy Teleron said this one act of solidarity should be seen as the beginning of a movement long overdue.

“This is really only the first step for many people, and we really need to do more on a local, state and national level to ensure change is going to happen,” Dr. Teleron said. “It’s been decades, hundreds of years too long.”

Healthcare professionals have a unique voice in the struggle for equality – day in and day out, nurses and doctors witness the lack of attention and care paid to marginalized communities borne out in hospitals, urgent care facilities and emergency rooms.

“When black people present to the hospital, it is a known fact that a lot of times their medical complaints aren’t necessarily heard,” Dr. Teleron said. “I think it’s really important that we all band together to ensure that we’re recognizing these things so we can improve healthcare for everyone, but specifically for our black community members.”

Dr. Onuigbo said that the broad coalition of healthcare workers showing up to support the cause gives him faith that everyone treated at UVM Medical Center will receive the best care possible, regardless of their background.

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