Lecture – McLean Hospital’s Anti-Racist, Justice, and Health Equity Action Plan

Available with English captions.

Presented by Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, PhD, McLean Hospital – McLean Forum lecture

On June 1, 2020, McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD, charged a small task force with drafting an anti-racist, justice, and health equity action plan for McLean Hospital.

In this lecture, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, PhD, McLean’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, reviews the events leading to this historic charge, elevating the implementation of these efforts as the hospital’s top priority. The tenets and structure of the action plan are discussed as a template, which all hospital programs and departments may follow for aligning emerging proposals.

Highlights of the lecture include:

  • Updates regarding initial interventions
  • Responses from McLean community members and opportunities for engagement
  • Goals of listening tours
  • Discussion of shared leadership and responsibility in the context of McLean’s efforts

According to Pinder-Amaker, the buildup of events that has brought the hospital to take action began over 400 years ago. She cites a line from the New York Times’ 1619 Project—a series of articles describing how slavery has shaped our nation. “In the United States, racial health disparities have been as foundational as democracy itself.”

Against this historical backdrop, says Pinder-Amaker, we are answering the charge to promote health equity at McLean Hospital. She says that we don’t have to be history experts but that having a basic understanding of our country’s racial history is an important stepping-stone for moving forward.

Pinder-Amaker says that the lasting legacy of slavery and racism, as demonstrated by today’s racial oppression and violence, has a significant impact on the mental health of African Americans. Not only do racism and discrimination adversely affect African Americans’ risk of developing mental health disorders, but African Americans are also more likely to have difficulty finding appropriate care for such disorders.

To address racial inequities, McLean aims to do things differently and in a better way. For such changes to be successful, however, Pinder-Amaker believes there are two critical steps that we must follow.

The first step is to “understand and acknowledge our complicit behavior in maintaining the status quo.” This applies to society overall, the field of psychiatry, and McLean Hospital. The second step is to embrace our responsibility, privilege, and power to promote a more just and equitable health care system.

Pinder-Amaker says that it would be human nature to bypass step one and move directly to step two. That’s because step one is painful. But avoiding step one would hinder our progress.