Quotes from AHA 2020: Structural Racism in Healthcare

In a year wrought with challenges spanning social, political, and healthcare spheres, one issue has risen to the forefront of our collective consciousness. Structural racism.

What is structural racism? A recently published presidential advisory from the American Heart Association states that “structural racism refers to the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics–historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal–that routinely advantage white people while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color.”

The planning committee for this year’s AHA Scientific Sessions took it upon themselves to address the presence of structural racism in Cardiology with a comprehensive series of lectures and discussions on the topic. The sessions kicked off on Friday, November 13th with an awe-inspiring fireside chat featuring legends in the education and treatment of cardiovascular disease, Drs. Eugene Braunwald and Nanette Wenger. The discussion was moderated by legends in their own right, Drs. Clyde Yancy and Robert Harrington.

“When I arrived in Atlanta in the early 1960s, racism was prevalent…and sadly, it continues more than half a century later” – Dr. Nanette Wenger

The morning continued with the main event session, “How to Use Behavioral Interventions to Advance Equity in Cardiovascular Health.” Drs. Keith Norris, Eberechukwu Onukwugha, and LaPrincess Brewer eloquently proposed solutions for tackling disparities in hypertension management and post-discharge care, as well as shared a bold new vision for cardiovascular health interventions to address disparities across the board.

“I am issuing a call for us, as an American Heart Association, community to integrate community-based interventions to promote cardiovascular health […] First, we must recognize the historical improprieties and wrongs in research, from events such as the Tuskegee syphilis study and the Henrietta Lacks cell line, which have led to a lingering mistrust of scientists and clinicians among racial and ethnic minority groups.” – Dr. LaPrincess Brewer

Arguably the main highlight of the morning was the AHA Fellows-in-Training session, titled “Racism in Medicine: What Medical Centers & Training Programs Can Do to be Antiracist.” This program sought to implore early career cardiologists to engage in the fight against structural racism, as well as provide trainees with a forum to learn more about racism in Medicine. The esteemed panelists, Drs. Clyde Yancy, Ileana Pina, and Michelle Albert led an incredible discussion with plenty of teaching points and actionable items to strengthen and support diversity, equity, and inclusion in medical training.

“It’s not about the number of people in the room or what they look like […] it’s about the diversity of thoughts in the room” – Dr. Clyde Yancy

This year’s AHA Scientific Sessions is off to a great start! Judging by the quality of programming on Day 1, there will be plenty more to write home about after this weekend.


“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”