Back to Health for West Virginia and the World

Be the light

The convergence of events that are unfolding in the United States are unprecedented. They are individually and collectively frightening and overwhelming.

We are at an inflection point in America. And, we are also at an inflection point in our health professions.

We need healing in our country.

Healing for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healing over the uncertainty of employment.

Healing from the brutality and racism that led to the death of George Floyd.

Healing for providers in our profession of healthcare.

While the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn is historic, it is the death of a single man that has awakened America to the gap between our promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of justice for all Americans and our present reality.

The need to heal.

“I can’t breathe.” 

The need to breathe.

Breathing is a reflexive, life-sustaining event that happens five to seven times or more every minute of our life. We usually don’t even realize we are breathing. It is a reflex that creates life.

We share responsibility for not appreciating the gift of vital breath. Of not noticing the many faces of racism and the grace of each other.

It is easy to forget the priceless gifts we experience every day.

The biggest gift is each other. As fellow travelers and adventurers on this globe and as equal beings.

American Medical Association president and native West Virginian, Patrice Harris, MD, called racism and police brutality a public health issue. She called for a move from rhetoric to action.

We join Dr. Harris’ voice with ours. We are deeply committed to justice, equality, inclusion and civility at West Virginia University and at our Health Sciences Center.

Our collective voices are powerful together. They give us the opportunity to heal.

Basic concepts.

Equality. Inclusion. Fairness. Diversity.

Diversity is the core of America. We come from many places of origin to create a United States.

Diversity in race, religion, thought. The great melting pot.

The author and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson, called for us to become “proximal,” or closer, to better understand communities suffering from inequalities.

I resolve to work in close proximity – side-by-side – with our Health Sciences family to continue to strengthen our community and shape our shared purpose.

We redouble our commitment to curricular and experiential training in equity, inclusion and diversity to create balanced, healthy and socially conscious health care providers.

We also commit to focus research on the social disparities suffered by our West Virginia community, including African American communities.

We commit to ensure a safe and protected space for all of our employees, faculty and students to flourish through shared experiences.

The glue that holds this higher set of values to the ravages of time is culture. Great culture is made of strong community, shared purpose, psychological safety and servant leadership.

Our WVU community needs to come close together at this historic and challenging time.

The root word of health is Hal, also the root word of heal, holy and holistic. It means whole. Complete. As one.

The greeting namaste translates to, “the divine in me recognizes the divine in you.” 

We may come from different countries and practice different religions. Our skin may be different shades. But at our core, we are the same. Part of an unbroken whole.

We must move from seeing the differences in appearance on the outside and see that we have the same light on the inside.

This is what the Sufi poet Rumi meant when he said, “the lamps are different, but the light is the same.”

We are equals, made of the same light.

That is the way in which all of us in leadership at WVU and Health Sciences see each of our students, faculty and staff.

Bright lights.

The foundation of inclusion, equity, diversity, fairness, safety, love and abundance is what we deeply believe and hope we have helped instill in you. 

However, no matter how much information, experience and training that our students, faculty and staff receive, it is you and your voice for change and justice that is our greatest gift to our world.

We hope and pray you use your voice and profession to change the world for good.

To lead.

Our state and our country need you. 

Go First.

Build a better world.

Be the beacon.

We believe in you.

Let’s change the world.