Over 100 medical, nursing, dentistry and pharmacy students put on their white coats, lit candles and gathered outside UC San Francisco's library on Parnassus Avenue Tuesday night to remember African-Americans shot and killed by police recently in Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
Medical students, like Justin Williams, took the microphone and spoke to the somber crowd, which also included faculty and other staff.
"No sense can be made of the killings of Tyre King, Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott," the 26-year-old Williams said. "But we call on you to renew your commitment to the relief of suffering and to deepen your empathy for your colleagues and patients."
"We urge you to consider the steps that each of us can take to fight systemic racism and our own implicit biases," said Williams, an African-American who grew up in Oakland.
The students who organized the White Coats For Black Lives vigil see "institutionalized racism" as the root of the latest police shootings and other violence. They seek to "safeguard the lives and well-being" of their patients by eliminating racism, according to the group's website.
Deanna Dawson, 25, said current and future health care professionals must care about the trauma caused by racial profiling police violence among the people who experience or witness it.
"We need to care about this just as much as we care about what our patients are eating and whether or not they smoke," said Dawson, a Bay Area native in her second year of medical school. "Part of our duty to taking care of people is to be out here advocating, joining the community and saying that we stand with you."
Decades of research link intrusive police tactics with increased anxiety and stress that can lead to trauma among adults and young people of color, according to a recent American Psychological Association article. Police violence perceived as unfair can also lead to less safety, as people who distrust law enforcement may choose not to report crimes.
White Coats For Black Lives at UCSF is credited with sparking a national conversation about racism as a public health issue, after dozens of students staged a "die-in" in 2014 to call attention to racial disparities in health care. Students at that event were also protesting the decision not to indict officers involved in the shooting deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri.