“Sustained exposure to racism in all of its forms increases our stress hormones, such as cortisol which causes havoc on our physical bodies and, while we know no race is a construct, a social construct, and has no biological and genetic basis, racism can actually literally change the patterns of how genes are expressed,” Maybank said.
“So whether we’re talking about more people dying of Covid, or at the hands of police, racism is ultimately the disease,” she said.
Part of the talk centered on police brutality and why it’s a medical issue that should be addressed by health institutions.
Mitchell said police brutality is “probably the most reprehensible symptom of the disease of racism in this country, the most obvious.”
“I feel like it is time to recognize and to call upon all of our institutions of medicine to denounce police violence as a public health threat,” said Dr. Rupa Marya, as associate professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco.
Marya said trauma plays a role in causing chronic health conditions.
Pediatrician Dr. Rhea Boyd told the panel that just witnessing violence impacts a person’s “physical health and mental well-being.”
Marya discussed some preliminary results from a study she’s part of on police violence and said no one is untouched by it.
“What we did see, and I’ll share it, is that everyone was traumatized, all races, by witnessing and experiencing police violence, with black and brown people having the most intense impacts to their health, but everyone is traumatized by this violence,” Marya said.