“The impact of racism on life and death demands a full response from every part of society, and dismantling, intersecting and addressing the oppressive systems in the spaces we occupy is fundamental,” said the president of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Surgical Society (SurgSoc), Savannah Verhage.
Speaking to UCT News after concluding a series of podcasts under the theme “Unpacking power, privilege and structural violence”, Verhage said that SurgSoc members felt that it was important to acknowledge that “injustices and privileges have not been prioritised in healthcare or society” and to highlight and discuss the overall impact of racial biases on clinical practice. The best way to start, she said, was through dialogue, which was where the idea to host the podcast series stemmed from.
Academics from UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences, including the deputy dean for Health Services, Dr Tracey Naledi, and the deputy dean for Postgraduate Education, Professor Elelwani Ramugondo, weighed in on the discussions. SHAWCO Health, the Health Sciences Students’ Council and the Rural Support Network also participated in the event.
During discussions, panellists explored the different ways racial biases manifest in South Africa’s healthcare sector and simultaneously brainstormed and assessed techniques on how to speak up against racial prejudices.
“Anecdotes … highlighted the power dynamics, privilege and structural violence that exist within our healthcare sector, and examples of lived experiences were used.”
“Panellists tried to keep their talks as objective as possible. Conversations were not based on personal experiences. However, anecdotes which highlighted the power dynamics, privilege and structural violence that exist within our healthcare sector, and examples of lived experiences were used,” added Isabel Kim, the SurgSoc’s internal vice president.
To ensure that those members of the audience who did not directly interact with conversations around power and privilege could participate, Sipho Ndereya, the SurgSoc’s external vice president, said that the organisers encouraged the audience to share their lived experiences (past and present) on an online reflection form.
“During discussions, it was clear that intersecting oppressive systems in the healthcare sector are still evident, and it is crucial that as a society and as a faculty we identify and recognise the systemic injustices in the spaces we occupy.”
“We hope that this podcast series will act as a springboard for further meaningful discussions surrounding these issues.”
One of the primary reasons for hosting this podcast series was to encourage students and faculty members to intentionally reflect on the racial biases that exist at the university, in the sector and in the country.
And there is need for more reflection, Verhage added. More than that, she said, there’s also a need to facilitate regular and ongoing dialogue on salient issues like racism, prejudice and other injustices.
“We hope that this podcast series will act as a springboard for further meaningful discussions surrounding these issues so that we can move towards a more transformative, inclusive culture on campus, as well as in clinical practice.”
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