The following letter was sent via email to all ASTRO members on June 3, 2020
Dear ASTRO Members:
Since March, we have all faced the enormous challenge of managing patients during the SARS-CoV2 pandemic. The resulting health effects of this virus have disproportionately affected African American, Latino and low income communities. The pandemic has resulted in not only the loss of life and health, but has also ravaged global economies, leaving our poorest citizens most vulnerable. Finally, we have seen attempts by some to blame Asian American citizens and immigrants for this virus because of its link to Asia.
As challenging as the viral pandemic has been, the unnecessary death of Mr. George Floyd in Minnesota illuminates another formidable crisis that links our social and health care systems.& Specifically, racial injustice remains pervasive in the United States and around the world. We must confront the reality that people of color, particularly African Americans, are at a higher risk of death because of endemic poverty, poor access to high quality education and healthy nutrition and inequities in the health care system, including the lack of optimal support systems and safety nets.
ASTRO is dedicated to diversity and inclusion as a core value of our Strategic Plan. This essential principle transcends the notion of solely being applicable to our members. It is our duty as physicians to oppose racial injustice of any kind and to work peacefully and purposefully to address those wrongs within our power. This is an inviolable part of our social contract as physicians.
As a community of physicians and educators, ASTRO is committed to embracing the ethics of equal treatment for all. As the largest professional medical society for radiation oncologists, we have a voice and an obligation to impact society through our work and our decisions. Our collective voice can help drive the change we seek when we speak out loudly against any form of racial injustice, including the most virulent form, health disparities based on race. As Dr. King once said, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
We are challenged today by events that may seem out of our control. Yet, I am confident that history is on our side. ASTRO members have and will continue to respond at the highest level of our professional oath and the ASTRO Board and I have the greatest admiration for the dedication you demonstrate every day caring for those in need. ASTRO stands in unity with the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and the 800,000 physicians across 45 medical specialties that deplore the negative impact of racism in our nation and of racial inequities in our health care system. Let us reaffirm that ASTRO members stand with all those who seek justice and equality and that we will work to reduce the inequities in our health care system that have been so dramatically highlighted during recent events.
Theodore L. DeWeese, MD, FASTRO
Chair, ASTRO Board of Directors