Research Horizons


Drs. Garcia, Von Allmen Speak About Addressing Systemic Racism

On June 4, 2020, as part of its virtual annual meeting, members of the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) interrupted their agenda to hold an in-depth discussion about the racial tensions and issues that have erupted worldwide since the killing of Minnesota resident George Floyd by a local police officer.

The session—Our Role as Pediatric Surgeons in Addressing Systemic Racism,
Presented by Ron Hirschl—can be viewed in its entirety here.

“APSA thought it was important to address this head on and is broadcasting this special session to help educate each other on these issues and suggest ways that we was an organization and individuals can work to overcome them,” organizers said.

Two leading surgeons at Cincinnati Children’s were part of the discussion.

Daniel von Allmen, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief at Cincinnati Children’s, shared how he felt upon about learning of the experiences African-American colleagues recounted to him about their encounters with police and with fellow employees.

“The scourge is racism and it’s pervasive,” he said “This whole thing has engendered intense feelings of guilt and shame and confusion and frustration and anger. I would just encourage us all to lean in and embrace the difficult nature of these conversations and take this on or we’re never going to make it any better.”

Victor Garcia, MD, founded the trauma center at Cincinnati Children’s. He has devoted many years of academic and community work to reducing the violence that sends so many people to hospitals for trauma care. As part of that work, he co-founded the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV), launched in 2007.

“We cannot let a crisis go to waste. We have to look at this as an opportunity,” Garcia says. “We need to eliminate the disenfranchisement of an increasing segment of our population…because our democracy is really at the precipice.”

Among his comments, Garcia recalled driving to North Carolina for basic training after graduating from West Point in 1968. He was greeted by a sign saying, “Welcome to North Carolina, Home of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Ever since, he has carried the poem, “Let America Be America Again,” by Langston Hughes, in his mind.

In that poem, Hughes writes “America never was America to me.  And yet I swear this oath—America will be!”

Garcia said that he still believes in that oath: “We can make America what it was destined to be by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”

Watch the roundtable discussion

See more of the APSA Virtual Annual Meeting