Why Racial Justice Matters in Radiation Oncology

Elsevier, Advances in Radiation Oncology, Volume 5, Issue 5, September-October 2020, pgs. 783-790
Authors: 
Christina Hunter Chapman, Darlene Gabeau, Chelsea C.Pinnix, Curtiland Deville Jr., Iris C. Gibbs, and Karen M. Winkfield

Recent events have reaffirmed that racism is a pervasive disease plaguing the United States and infiltrating the fabric of this nation. As health care professionals dedicated to understanding and alleviating disease, many radiation oncologists have failed to acknowledge how structural racism affects the health and well-being of the patients we aim to serve. The literature is full of descriptive statistics showing the higher incidence and mortality experienced by the Black population for health conditions ranging from infant mortality to infectious disease, including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Acknowledgment that the root of health disparities experienced by Black people in this country are based in racism is essential to moving the nation and the field of radiation oncology forward. With this lens, a brief overview of structural and institutional racism shapes a discussion of what radiation oncologists and the organizations that represent them can do to address this scourge. As members of a technological field, we often harness the power of data to advance human health and approach challenging diseases with optimism that multidisciplinary effort can produce cure. A few principles to mitigate the longstanding issues of Black marginalization within the field have been recommended via the ATIP (Acknowledgment, Transparency, Intentionality, and rePresentation) and LEADS (Learn, Engage, Advocate, Defend, Support) approaches. However, additional introspection is encouraged. Just as individuals, practices, and organizations rallied to determine how best to address the issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the same investigational fervor must be applied to the issue of racism to combat this sinister and often deadly disease.