There is nowhere Black people can go to not be inside a carceral gaze or at risk of experiencing police brutality. …And we, in healthcare, have to [start] building that sanctuary for folks as their human right.
Rhea Boyd

In her recent New England Journal Perspective essay, “Without Sanctuary”1 S. Michelle Ogunwole suggests that our hospitals and offices should be sanctuaries for our patients.  She writes:

In quiet moments, I often reflect on how our society decides who deserves punishment and who deserves redemption. I think about grace, and how Black people get so little. I think about trust, and how Black people get so little. I think about benefit of the doubt, and how Black people get so little. And I think about the varied manifestations of Ms. A.’s pain — how no one, me included, offered her a sanctuary.

“Imagine,’ she muses, “if we all worked to create sanctuaries for our patients.”

With Ogunwole’s essay fresh in mind, I read two articles today in the March 6, 2021 NY Times.

The first :Rochester Police Tackle and Pepper-Spray Mother With Toddler

The second:  NY Doctor Who Prescribed Pain Pills Is Charged With 5 Counts of Murder

Dr. Ogunwole describes a haunting, teachable moment. So do these two NYT articles.

As we sit in our offices or clinics, seeing patients who are less fortunate than we, shouldn’t we strive to make these sanctuaries where they will be accepted and not prejudged?

1. S Michelle Ogunwole. Without Sanctuary. NEJM. 2021 Mar 4;384(9):791-793. (If you can’t get a pdf of this article, I can send it to you)

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About David Elpern

The Online Journal of Community and Person-Centered Dermatology (OJCPCD) is a free, full text, open-access, online publication that addresses all aspects of skin disease that concern patients, their families, and practitioners. ​It was founded in 2012 by Dr. David J. Elpern, M.D. in Williamstown, MA. with technical help from Inez Tan.

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