Our Commitment to Dismantling Racism
The confluence of the disproportionate harm of COVID-19, police brutality and community violence against Black and Brown people have magnified the desperate need for change. In 2020, the School of Medicine—under the leadership of Dean Mary Klotman and in alignment with Duke University’s commitment to social justice—announced a new initiative, "Turning a Moment into a Movement: Dismantling Racism," to build longitudinal strategies to dismantle racism in our local environment and the broader community and to advance knowledge and mitigate strategies to address the health impacts of racial inequity.
As part of that movement, faculty, staff and students participated in the Duke Health Walk for Solidarity which demonstrated the institution’s collective stand against systemic racism and injustice. The same day, the Duke Health and Duke University communities participated in the national movements #ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownSTEM, which called for faculty, staff and students to pause research to engage in introspection, dialogue and thought on ways to eliminate systemic racism. The School of Medicine embarked on a strategic planning process to build strategies for making real and sustainable change.
Our Pivot to COVID-19 Response
As the coronavirus pandemic began to spread throughout our communities and nation in Spring 2020, Duke University School of Medicine pivoted to focus on the problem at hand.
Faculty and staff in the health system began caring for patients with COVID-19 all while working to reduce the risk of infection among health care providers. Hundreds of providers began delivering virtual care via telemedicine, and drive-through testing sites were established.
Researchers scaled up clinical research efforts focused on the novel coronavirus. In March, Duke University joined the first national study to test a potential therapy for COVID-19, giving hospitalized adult patients with significant symptoms an option to participate. And in early April, the Duke Clinical Research Institute designed and launched a study to test a treatment for health care workers across the nation who are at high risk of contracting the virus. To date, Duke is involved in hundreds of trials to fight COVID-19.
A similar seismic shift occurred in laboratory-based research. Scientists turned their efforts to focus on COVID-19. Research teams in Durham and at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore are making critical contributions. Some of the world’s most skilled and experienced researchers are at Duke and are rapidly working to develop countermeasures through the development of a therapeutic antibody and a vaccine to combat COVID-19.
Duke is well-equipped for this work. Almost 20 years ago, Duke became home to one of the nation’s National Institutes of Health-funded Regional Biocontainment Laboratories, a secure state-of-the-art facility ideally suited for working with new and infectious pathogens. The School’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility on campus allows Duke to produce candidate vaccines for testing.
Consistent with its history in patient care and research, Duke is leading and contributing at a local, national and international level, and partnering with clinical and scientific colleagues all over the world to share resources, knowledge and experience to battle the pandemic.
The School of Medicine’s education efforts have rapidly adapted, as well. Innovative educational leaders and dedicated students in professional and graduate medical education transitioned to virtual classes where needed. In August, the School of Medicine welcomed more than 600 students from across the country and around the world to start their health professions careers.
An updated summary of all efforts in the School of Medicine can be found on our Coronavirus Response site.