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DRS Statement on Racism and Healthcare Disparities

Thursday, June 4, 2020  

Dear DRS Community, 

In the wake of current events in the United States, the Dysphagia Research Society (DRS) is making it clear that we stand in support of all Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and marginalized communities. DRS agrees that professional silence is no longer an option - the “seat of bystander” is no longer tenable (Berwick, 2017, JAMA). DRS has not had a statement concerning racism before today - this is why DRS must now denounce the racism that has ripped apart our global community for generations and continues to do so. Apathy, complacency, and silence are not viable options. DRS believes that to continue moving forward, we must collaborate to make necessary fundamental changes to address inequities stemming from racism, bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance. DRS will not condone any act of police brutality, nor will we stand silent in the face of senseless killings.

One of the many negative consequences of racism is disparities in healthcare that represent a long-standing public health crisis. BIPOC and marginalized communities are at increased risk of diseases/conditions where dysphagia (swallowing impairment) is a frequent consequence. These most recent acts of racial discrimination are occurring in the middle of another global health crisis that also impacts swallowing function - the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic is also disproportionately impacting the BIPOC and marginalized communities (Dyer, 2020, BMJ). As healthcare professionals, we are committed to equity in healthcare access for all BIPOC and marginalized communities

The DRS community is composed of healthcare professionals and scientists from a variety of specialties with representation from across the globe. Since its beginnings, DRS has been open to all people, independent of gender, race, ethnicity, origin, or professional discipline. DRS will now focus on enhancing diversity within our membership and our leadership. We know we can do better. We know we must act now. As dysphagia clinicians and researchers, we must evolve our professional and ethical standards to provide services with cultural awareness and humility to achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients with dysphagia. DRS values your feedback on ways we can respond to inequities on a more global scale, aligning with our mission, with the aim of developing solutions that are part of the permanent change. DRS is dedicated to beginning new conversations about how we can further improve the lives of individuals affected by dysphagia, including all BIPOC and marginalized communities, and for advancing our field through coordinated global educational, clinical, and scientific endeavors.  

Nadine Connor, PhD, CCC-SLP

President, Dysphagia Research Society


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