Statement by Black Neurosurgeons
The AANS is committed to inclusion and diversity and desires to support all segments of our membership and the neurosurgical profession. Recently a group of Black neurosurgeons came together to publish an op-ed in response to a series of recent tragic events that underscore more systemic problems.
The collective voice of these individuals provides a uniquely pertinent perspective on these issues and we are thankful for their leadership and willingness to speak out. The AANS appreciates the opportunity to re-post this piece, which originally appeared here.
Statement by Black Neurosurgeons
To our Patients, Colleagues, and the Global Community at Large,
Most recently, in the setting of continued efforts to respond to COVID-19 as a widespread and global pandemic, the nation has been rocked by the brutal murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a White police officer in the audience of the public and other police officers representing the Minneapolis Police Department. Our hearts and minds are also heavy with thoughts of those who have recently lost their lives, like Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, who are part of a long list dating back to and before the murders of Michael Brown in 2014 and Eric Garner in 2016. The cries of outrage reflected in the most recent days of protest and unrest reflect another insidious pandemic of grave public health consequence we have yet to curtail or respond to as a society at large.
Speaking as Black constituents within the field of neurosurgery, we are in the unique position to speak up and against cyclical and imminent public health threats to the Black community, fiercely and persistently. We are adding our voices in solidarity with medical institutions like the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), National Medical Association (NMA), American Medical Association (AMA), and American Heart Association (AHA), that assert excessive use of police force and violence is a public health issue.
We, as neuroscientists and surgeons, see firsthand the effects of neurotrauma on those subjected to violence at especially alarming rates in the Black community. Blunt and penetrating trauma to the brain and spine may result in hemorrhage, stroke, or both; disabling spinal fractures and dislocation; and, in some cases recurrent surgical procedures resulting in prolonged hospital stays and extended rehabilitation. For those who do not face death at the initial encounter, they face disability, often long-term. This heightens economic insecurity – taking them out of a workforce in which they are already battling unemployment or underemployment at disproportionate rates. Ultimately, this widens the socioeconomic gap, increases the number of those uninsured in the Black community, and compounds the lack of access to adequate and complete healthcare.
Moreover, there are intangible neuropsychological effects stemming from fearing for one’s life on a daily basis, mourning the sudden and inexplicable loss of a loved one to such violence, or simply being a Black person facing perennial reminders that we are not welcome in some parts of a society that has given us a conditionally approved position at best and a permanent second class citizen rank at worst. This intangible mental anxiety and stress invariably exacerbates underlying pathology. As a result, there is a demonstrable increase in preventable conditions, such as ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, and a negative effect on the management, treatment, and outcome of other neurosurgical disorders.
As neurosurgeons and as public servants, we hold ourselves accountable – individually and collectively – to provide services upholding the standard of care we pledged to in our profession. Every patient has the right to receive that level of care no matter what surgeon they encounter or what bias that surgeon may have. This binding and reasonable contract in its simplest form is what is being asked of law enforcement today. We submit this statement as a promise to find and support actionable items that guarantee the march toward the arc of equality and accountability in how Black people are policed.
There is a slow but inevitable erosion of the state of health amongst Black people as a result of the aforementioned numerous struggles we encounter doggedly and simultaneously. This has culminated in a public health crisis shortening not only the lives of too many too early but diminishing the quality of life of those who remain to bear it.
Nnenna Mbabuike, MD
William W. Ashley, Jr., MD, Ph.D., M.B.A., FAANS
Edjah K. Nduom, MD, FAANS