No Honor in Racism
Dear Tulane and New Orleans Community,
We, as alumni of various training programs at Tulane University School of Medicine, have recently become aware of a request to provide funds to facilitate the establishment of a scholarship fund in honor of Dean L. Lee Hamm. Although we appreciate that this long overdue attention and support for underrepresented minorities in medicine at Tulane is important, we feel compelled to call out that doing so would rewrite the legacy of a man who during his tenure blatantly ignored issues and perpetuated the bigoted policies/practices that negatively affected underrepresented trainees at Tulane.
In the call for funds, the author of the letter praised Dean Hamm’s leadership during COVID, social and political unrest, Entergy mishaps, and Hurricane Ida. However, it was due to blatant acts of racism, bigotry, and ignorance by leadership at Tulane, including Dean Hamm, that led to the cited public social and political unrest within the School of Medicine. It was under Dean Hamm’s leadership that minority faculty, residents, and medical students were mistreated, disrespected, denied promotions, and disproportionately assigned work responsibilities compared to their white colleagues. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, Dean Hamm was well aware of these issues as several of these individuals reached out to his office for help, only to be dismissed and retaliated against.
This theme of neglecting his duties to the students and trainees at Tulane by his relationship with Dr. Jeff Wiese, who held the position of both DIO (Director of Graduate Medical Education) and Program Director of Internal Medicine (an inherent conflict of interest only resolved after the ACGME stepped in), has been publicly accused of consistently differential treatment of underrepresented residents and faculty. It was also under Dean Hamm’s leadership that the first Black female program director at Tulane was fired for challenging the racist status quo and for helping trainees from minority backgrounds find their voice in speaking up against racism and bigotry. Any efforts to diversify the school or address issues of differential treatment received by persons of color at Tulane School of Medicine were the direct result of assessments by both the LCME and ACGME after trainees filed complaints and reports. And these changes were further fueled in addition to turmoil and public unrest following the publicizing of lawsuits brought by faculty and trainees.
It is with this knowledge that we believe that any attempt to establish a scholarship to support underrepresented trainees during their training at Tulane named in honor of Dean Hamm mimics another common tradition of Tulane - ignorantly celebrating bigots. Like the many halls, libraries, and buildings of Tulane that have been dedicated to racist white men (like the Rudolph Matas Library), naming this scholarship after Dean Hamm would be to ignore his legacy standing in defiant opposition to attempts to transition Tulane into an era that truly welcomes and supports diversity and inclusion. It is a slap in the face of those students and trainees who his inaction hurt, hindered, and/or terrorized. It would be another example of Tulane's deaf ear to culture and climate at this institution that has further alienated and abandoned students and trainees of color and from minority backgrounds.
As alumni of Tulane, we implore you to reconsider dedicating such a scholarship to a man who has unapologetically neglected his duty as dean of ALL Tulane’s medical students and residents. His current legacy has been the maintenance and reinforcement of racist policies and practices at Tulane which places the safety of patients, trainees, and faculty who dare to oppose him in jeopardy every day. He has not highlighted any self-driven efforts to provide safe refuge and progressive action in support of those who are underrepresented in medicine. Therefore, we vehemently oppose your attempt to honor Dean Hamm and rewrite history after public embarrassment related to the outing of poor race relations at Tulane
Alumni of Tulane
(Out of concern for retaliation, we sign this letter anonymously with pseudonyms and/or initials)