Photo by Carla Vaughan
When communities across the nation began demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans who have been killed and oppressed by systemic racism, Paris D. Butler, MD, MPH, of Plastic Surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital, immediately took action. Though he decided not to attend the demonstrations in the streets in order to be available for his patients and his trainees, he recognized that the pen could be just as powerful as the protest sign.
Over the last few months, Butler has authored six manuscripts published in journals including the American Journal of Surgery and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery discussing the urgent need to dismantle barriers faced by Black and brown physicians and surgeons and laying out steps to creating an anti-racist culture within health systems. He also worked with 127 physicians of color across Penn Medicine to write a “bold, but optimistic” letter that has guided many of the actions taken across the organization, such as the rollout of mandatory unconscious bias training, the requirement that all departments create vice chair roles centered of diversity, inclusion, and equity, and the designation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as an institutional holiday.
Whether researching pervasive health disparities, sharing his voice during PAH’s racial justice town hall, organizing community outreach events focused on improving patients’ health literacy around breast care (read more in What’s New), or mentoring students and residents who are underrepresented minorities in medicine, Butler is committed to using his position as a Black surgeon at an elite academic medical center to drive progress.
“Our administrators have been receptive and have taken swift action, but the only way to make substantial, sustainable change is if we all leverage our privileges and platforms,” Butler said. “Everyone has the capacity to make a difference, and it’s incumbent upon all of us to embrace anti-racism and to honor and value diversity, inclusion, and equity.”
At Penn Medicine, we all aspire to be Difference Makers who represent the Penn Medicine Experience (PMX) in action. PMX sets a consistent standard across all of our entities and work locations to make every touchpoint an opportunity to build enduring connections with patients, families, visitors, and colleagues, which is a foundational part of the UPHS Success Share program.