Roughly 70 members of the Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health communities, clad in traditional white lab coats, lay down in front of the medical school for four a half minutes today after assembling at noon.

The demonstration was part of the nationwide protests against the shooting of Michael Brown and choking of Eric Garner at the hands of police earlier this year. But this demonstration, part of White Coat Die-Ins held at medical schools across the country, also emphasized the effect of systemic racial inequalities on health outcomes for minorities.

“This is not just a political issue,” said Jessica Minor MED ’22 GRD ’22, the student who organized the event. “This is a public health issue. And, above all, this is a human rights issue.”

“We talk about mortality, and we talk about risk,” Minor continued. “Being black is a risk. It’s something we can’t deny, and it’s what this movement is asserting.”

The nationwide White Coat Die-In was set to occur at 12 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, but students chose to move it to midday, when people are out for their lunch break, to increase the protest’s visibility, Minor said.

Robert Rock MED ’17, who joined the die-in, said that it is important that future healthcare providers are trained and cognizant of how systemic racism can play out in patient-provider interactions and create health disparities. Among those disparities, he said, are the differences in cancer diagnosis rates between minority and non-minority patients.

“If you step back from that explicit event [the shooting of Michael Brown] and look at the situation in very congested urban areas where minorities live, it’s very much a health issue,” Rock said.

Ignacio Cerdena MED ’18, who participated in the die-in, added that simply living in intensely policed areas can result in post-traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms, which can be passed on for generations.

While the attendees of the demonstration came from a mix of minority and non-minority backgrounds, several participants noted that their experiences growing up motivated their interest in pursuing healthcare as a career, allowing them to tackle the nation’s discrepancies in access to healthcare.

Herbert Castillo Valladeres MED ’18, who helped organize the event, emigrated to the United States from Guatemala at 11 years old, and grew up in an extremely diverse Los Angeles neighborhood. He said he was happy to see that the die-in attracted students of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

“It’s important to have minority voices within these movements because at the end of the day, most people at medical schools haven’t faced discrimination in the healthcare system,” he said, noting that it is also important for non-minoriites to become part of these discussions because they have an important role to play in supporting the cause.

Four students interviewed commented that the medical school curriculum at Yale does not put a strong focus on social injustice and the negative effects it has on minority health. Genetic mutations and diabetes incidence in children, for example, have been linked with high levels of poverty. Black patients are also less likely to be given strong painkillers in the emergency room than are white patients.

Given the impact inequality has on patient-provider relationships, Rock decided to launch a pilot elective at the medical school called “U.S. Health Justice,” which trains students to better understand health issues through a socioeconomic perspective.

Dean of the Medical School Robert Alpern said that, though the school recognizes the importance of these types of courses, it is often difficult to fit in absolutely everything that a doctor needs to know in the time students attend medical school.

“We’d like to do more, but we are limited to four years and do as much as we can,” he said.

But Rock said he sees social advocacy and awareness as an integral part of a doctor’s responsibilities.

“As a health provider, I want to use my platform to draw attention to these things and ensure the future is better.”

  • Mandy Sue

    So proud of these students!! Right on. Keep the nation focused.

    • ShadrachSmith

      Focused on what, if I may ask?

      • 100wattlightbulb

        Being sheep.

  • aaleli

    You have GOT to be kidding.

  • Striking

    The real public health issue is the crime rate, and those who would rather risk being injured or dying by resisting arrest and being lawless. I notice there is no discussion or consideration of that aspect of these cases. Maybe some of these elite students could spend some time in the hood counseling these black men on how all of us are supposed to respond to the police. Thankfully, most of us do. Feel free to go back to your $5 lattes now.

  • Striking

    Do any of these Yalies know how many cops have been killed in the last 6 mths by perps like Brown and Garner who refused arrest? Wrap your little entitled medical minds around that one

    • ohno12

      Yeah, actually, I would love to know how many cops have been killed by unarmed men in the past 6 months.

      • Mary Ann

        I’d love to know that, too. It’s so important. Key, really. So keep looking! Maybe that figure is in some footnote to the number of suspects who, before threatening an officer or someone he or she was trying to protect, filled out and submitted to the officer a long form questionnaire certifying whether the suspect was armed, trained to use his or her weapon by qualified instructors, duly licensed and other pertinent data. Have you looked there?

        By the way, where HAVE you looked for this figure that you “would love to know?” Anywhere at all? Google? The phone book?

        • ohno12

          So, just to be clear, you’re arguing that police officers should not only be ABLE to use lethal force on someone who only might be a threat, but should be encouraged to go for that as the FIRST option, rather than trying to learn more about a situation before putting their finger on the trigger, or attempting de-escalation by other means.

          ‘k. I think we have different ideas of the primary directive of law enforcement, but whatever. I’ll be fine with the above assertion if it were applied equally to all. By that logic, police should be rolling up to tase/shoot/tackle anyone practicing open carry.

          • Nancy Morris

            The factoid you “would love to know” is of no significance, which is the reason no government or private agency has bothered to collect and publish that factoid.

          • ohno12

            I’d suggest re-calibrating your sarcasm detectors. Someone suggested that “perps like Brown and Garner” were capable of killing armed LEOs; I was reminding them that Brown and Garner were both unarmed.

  • Bob


  • flopsy

    Came for the comments

  • td2016

    Those who provide MEDICAL services sometimes kill, just as those who provide SECURITY and PEACE services do. If and when it comes to pass that any of these medical professionals find themselves involved in a death that, on the basis of some evidence, seems highly negligent, will they be so intent that the state bring CRIMINAL charges against THEM?

    Among all the uncertainties that surround Garner’s death, it is absolutely clear that these Yale Medical School people and other self-appointed “activists” are acting and making their demands in ignorance of the much of the testimony and other critical evidence on which the New York grand jury declined to indict. Nobody has come forward with serious evidence supporting the claim that race played a material role in Garner’s death other than the mere fact that Garner was black and the officers weren’t. But that’s not significant evidence, no matter how much ranting anyone does about historical injustice or lies in any road or all and any of the rest. It just isn’t. “We can’t breath?” The “activists” can hold their breaths until they turn blue in the face and there still won’t be material evidence in this case that racial bias motivated THESE police officers in THIS case. If a black patient dies on the operating table because the white anesthesiologist negligently distracts herself by checking her cell phone for text messages, is it evidence that she acted out of racism? Of course not! Nor is there any evidence that the grand jury was biased. It delivered a decision that some people don’t like. That is not evidence of bias.

    Somebody thinks racism is a big problem in the society at large? The society is unjust? America is not all it could be? Fine. Debate that kind of thing wherever and whenever one wants. But all of that is irrelevant to the question of whether to INDICT these officers on the evidence presented. And that was the ONLY question this grand jury properly considered. It is especially grotesque that members of the Yale Law School (including its Dean) have given statements and been involved in activities that suggest the grand jury should have done anything else. And now these naifs at the medical school are lying in the road. OY.

    The New York police officers involved in this fatality obviously did not intend to kill Garner, and they were entitled to subdue him with force. The questions before the grand jury therefore essentially pertain to potential negligence and use of potentially excessive force on the part of the police. Crimes predicated on negligence are notoriously hard to prosecute. For example, negligent vehicular homicide is common, but crimes based on vehicular homicide are generally prosecuted only in rather extreme cases. When was the last time one heard of a motorist killing a bicyclist being prosecuted for negligent homicide? It happens, but not often, even when the motorist had been drinking. Normally the motorist says of the just-dispatched cyclist “I didn’t see him” and the matter ends there without extensive criminal investigation of whether that claim could reasonably be true.

    It is not at all clear from what is known to the public that the grand jury was wrong. And not much is known to the public compared to what the grand jury reviewed. Certainly the video of the event and the coroner’s reports are not enough on their own clearly to warrant indictment. We don’t know what grand jury testimony accompanied those items. The simple fact is that various self-appointed advocates demanding “Justice” in the form of a criminal indictment based on evidence they know little about are wildly off track in pretending to know enough to second guess the grand jury. A grand jury for which there is no reason to presume bias has found no probable cause of a crime. There was probably no crime committed. Get over it.

    The proper course of remedy for the Garner death is a civil court action, as it is when medical professionals kill. Tort law is specifically designed to deal with damage (including fatal damage) caused by negligence and excess behavior of many kinds. For example, it is of little CRIMINAL significance that a choke hold of a type possibly prohibited by NYPD policy may have been employed. But it could be of great significance in a negligence tort action against the City of New York and the officers involved. The idea that “Justice” only comes in and through the criminal courts is naive, dangerous and just plain wrong, especially when it leads to demands for criminal charges out of the kind of ignorance and emotional pathology suffusing the thought processes that resulted in this “die in.”

  • td2016

    And one can add this to the mix:

    Lost in the racial outcry over the decision to not indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Black petty criminal Eric Garner is the key fact that the attempt to arrest Garner was overseen by a Black female police sergeant.

    The Black female police sergeant is not shown in the countless replays in the media of cellphone footage that showed white male police officers confronting and taking down Garner but she is said to be seen in the video.

    From a police report reported by PIX11 in July, the sergeant’s name appears to be Kizzy Adoni.

    “Another female sergeant, Kizzy Adoni, made a similar statement in the report. She “believed she heard” Garner say he was having difficulty breathing. Adoni also said “The perpetrator’s condition did not seem serious and he did not appear to get worse.””

    There is no mention of Adoni in a Google News search of the latest reports on the Garner decision.