Fourth-year medicine student Carmen Javier was selected to address NEOMED’s College of Medicine Class of 2024 at the annual White Coat Ceremony, where incoming students don their white coats for the first time to symbolize the transition into their profession. Javier was selected to represent the medicine students because of her commitment and leadership throughout her time at NEOMED, which included founding the Latino Medical Student Association chapter at NEOMED and revitalizing the formerly defunct annual Multicultural Festival. Below is her speech to the College of Medicine Class of 2024.
Congratulations to the College of Medicine’s Class of 2024! My name is Carmen Javier. I am 28-year-old, Mexican American, rising fourth-year medical student at NEOMED. Today I have the honor of speaking to you and our esteemed guests about the pivotal role our student body holds towards creating a campus community that is equitable, inclusive, and supportive to all its members regardless of their background, identity, affiliation, and/or accommodations. To this end, I must start by honoring my ancestors. Ancestors who have worked arduously on this cherished land despite being alienated and denied basic human rights.
To my great-grandfather who was a migrant worker in the 1940s Bracero Program, a program with unfulfilled promises by the U.S. government, leaving Mexican farm workers without fair payment, without fair working conditions, and without fair living environments. To my father, who risked his life as a teenager crossing the desert at the border for a chance to earn income that could pay my grandfather’s healthcare bills and feed our family. To my mother, whose college education in Mexico held zero credit in America but who still took on the hardships of manual labor to support my future. It is thanks to them that I am here. I am eternally grateful to them and morally obligated to expose their experiences in the plight for social justice.
Furthermore, I would not be sharing this privileged space with you today if it wasn’t for the African American, Latino, and minority underrepresented students, faculty, and staff at NEOMED and Cleveland State University; selfless individuals whose mission uplifted my physical and spiritual journey as an aspiring, urban primary care physician. The sacrifices made by the pioneers and supporters of the NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health to elevate my dreams, and the dreams of other students like me, shall never go unnoticed.
My fellow Class of 2024 peers in the College of Medicine, today we celebrate you and your accomplishments as you take the Hippocratic Oath. Moreover, today we challenge you to uphold the values of justice and respect that this oath bears through purposeful actions that will brighten our society. As I reflect on this momentous occasion and look back on my last three years here, the most important token of advice I can offer is that you become a change agent towards building and sustaining an equitable, diverse, and inclusive community at NEOMED. For it is not until we seek transformation from within, until we recognize our own shortcomings, until we are willing to feel uncomfortable shaking our own biases and traditions, that we become a more perfect union. A more perfect union capable of anything.
Class of 2024, I must ask you after you look internally to please look externally. Who do you see? Who don’t you see? And why? Unfortunately and for far too long, we have seen and experienced medical education happen in a vacuum….where policies, procedures, and systems exclude individuals from achieving their dreams due to their race, ethnicity, disability, economic status and/or sexual preference. We cannot afford to let this continue. Education must not happen in a vacuum. Education must happen with the historical context and relevance to the lives and experiences of ALL those who are eager to participate in the process of learning.
Fellow students and esteemed guests, the pursuit of excellence in education and community building at NEOMED is in YOUR hands! Today, amidst a global pandemic and rising racial disparities in our nation, it is critical that we stand up, especially for those who have been left out or struggle to be heard. It is critical that we ask the difficult questions, especially to our higher authority figures. And it is critical that we elect leaders who honor and protect our collective existence, most definitely this November, but also at your own class elections. This work of self-reflection, self-betterment, and the expectation of the same from others is hard. In fact, it can and should be disruptive. But through YOU, this work is possible, courageous. Most of all, through YOU this work brings peace. It brings unity.
Finally, to anyone here who identifies as Black and/or Latino, or whose life has been challenged by discriminatory treatment, please remember that your identity is not your weakness but rather your superpower. Your expectations are not unrealistic. Your frustrations are valid. Your story of resilience is invaluable, and your accomplishments have and will be that much sweeter. You belong here. Your needs matter. Your life matters.
¡Tu lucha es mi lucha! From the bottom of my heart, your struggle is my struggle. I see you. I stand with you. I will be better for you and because of you. I will continue to fight for you. Class of 2024, make no mistake, the progress that the classes before you have made is only the beginning! How far will you take us? Future doctors of NEOMED, the time to build your legacy has arrived.