We have encountered some very troubling and disturbing events in our nation over the last few months and we recognize the necessity to take a firm stance against all racial injustice in our country, please see our official statement below.
Office of Rural Initiatives Statement of Solidarity
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We want to join our voices with many departments here at UNC Hospitals, UNC School of Medicine, and the UNC Campus. There have been incredibly powerful words and stories shared. The tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor make it hard to find words to express the anger, frustration, and disgust that accompany any reflection on this most recent string of senseless violence and racist acts. The uncertainty of the accompanying global pandemic has made all of us weary with the realization that this virus and the resultant upheaval in society is going to be here for a while.
As staff, students and alumni involved within the Office of Rural Initiatives, we are acutely aware that while the full picture remains unclear, the disproportionate burden that our rural communities, mainly Black and Latino Americans, are bearing is directly tied to their overrepresentation in jobs where they risk exposure, and of a racial gap in wealth and income that has led to increased vulnerabilities of lay-offs. Our Black and Latino workers, who compromise a large portion of our rural populations, are overrepresented among the essential, the unemployed, and the dead. Within the destructive path this virus has already left on our nation, particularly those of color, it is incredibly challenging to be so acutely reminded of the path of systemic and embedded racism continues to leave.
Let us state clearly: our team and our campus partners within the Office of Rural Initiatives strongly condemns violence, discrimination, and racism. We commit to acknowledging and addressing the injustices that some of our friends and colleagues endure. We vow to not feel despondent and remain complacent, but rather to use the resources available to us to create and advocate for change. Although we are being exposed to humanity’s worst tendencies, we pledge to show our best.
To our Black and Brown students; We see you. We stand with you. We support you. We share in your grief and anger. We commit to making your learning experience at UNC an inclusive environment in which you can thrive. We pledge to bring accountability and continue to learn and become strong voices in advocacy and allyship. We ask if you are OK. If you are not, we are here and can talk or direct you to extra counseling and to the proper members in the institution with a diversity related counseling skill set.
We would also like to share the recent repositioning of the Office of Rural Initiatives within the School of Medicine. We are now under the leadership of the Office of Inclusive Excellence (OIE). Our colleagues in the OIE are already teaching us and we are eager to listen and learn and strengthen the ORI’s outreach and efforts. We are hopeful about the impact this new relationship and positioning will have in connecting students across programs.
To all; Check on each other, reach out for help, report concerns or incidents; we will not tolerate injustices. Put some thought into what you as an individual can do to address injustice, hate, and inequality. By doing so, you will emit hope, which is the only way to see light amid darkness.
With so much love and respect,
The Office of Rural Initiatives
Opportunities to Make Your Voice Heard
The SMNA and UNC White Coats for Black Lives Matter have issued a call to action to the leadership of UNC SOM and UNC Healthcare. You can get more information about their asks and follow them on Instagram @unc_snma
Ways You Can Get Involved
- Exercise your right to VOTE
- Educate yourself about the issues and become an advocate
- Call/email your government officials (local and national)
- Be aware of and prepared for protest reality
- Sign petitions such as
- Donate to reputable organizations dedicated to creating the change we are demanding for our country
- Check in your friends in a helpful, respectful and sincere manner
- Resource: https://nmaahc.si.edu/about/news/national-museum-african-american-history-and-culture-releases-talking-about-race-web
See the a recent article about a protest marches in a rural town.
North Carolina and COVID-19
In conjunction with to the social unrest throughout our country we are also in the midst of a global pandemic which creates its own set of unique challenges. As Americans we have been under some kind of social restrictions since mid March due to the pandemic as a way to help slow the spread of the virus. As of June 24th there were almost 2.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States with almost 55,000 lab confirmed tests in our state.
The rural areas of our state are starting to see significant increase in cases with higher per-capita rates than urban area. The rise in cases place a burden on healthcare systems that are already very vunerable. We often discuss the health disparities prevalent in our rural counties and the corona virus serves a stark reminder and accentuates those issues. Hospital closures loom daily and those that are open struggle to secure adequate PPE, face staffing issues, and lack equipment such as ventilators to help fight the virus.
Our rural counties can also become “hotspots” due to vocational opportunities such as farms who employ migrant workers and food processing plants and as shown in a March Gallup poll, people living in low density areas are more likely to attend social gatherings or visit family. There is also less opportunity for self isolation after diagnosis.
As check out https://dailyyonder.com/ and subscribe to their newslettter for more information on how COVID is affecting rural areas and other great info on all thing rural.
You can see the latest data on COVID-19 cases in North Carolina by visiting https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard. #staystrongNC
Some of you like the students mentioned in the article below have found ways to get involved with community needs during this time and there are several other ways you can contribute to your local community such as:
- Volunteering at a local food bank
- Donating to a local food bank
- Give blood
- Locate medical organizations who may need administrative assistance
You can get more information on our state’s response and plan to move forward in the wake of COVID-19 https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/ also visit https://www.northcarolinahealthnews.org/covid-19-coverage/
With so much going on in our world today we encourage you to prioritize your overall wellbeing or in other words practice #selfcare. If you are in need of someone to talk to or don’t know where to start identify resources please feel free to reach out to us and allow us to help guide you.
Kenan Scholars Summer Kickoff
We are pleased announce plans have been completed for our Kenan Scholars to head off to their summer clinical sites. We are excited to hear to about their experiences and look forward to seeing their presentations about their summer work. A huge thank you to our preceptors listed below.
- Piedmont Health Services-Siler City
- UNC Women’s Health at Eden- Dr. William McLeod
- Blue Ridge Health-Jackson Dr. Kim Neiheisel and Dr. Brittany Hipkins
- Blue Ridge Health-Haywood Dr. Paulette Doiron
- Island Family Medicine and Pender Memorial Hospital-Dr. Heather Davis and Dr. Seaborn Blair at
- Sessoms Medical Associates in Rose Hill-Dr. Kimberly Grigsby-Sessoms