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SOAR  (Structural Oppression and Anti-Racism Task Force)

SOAR brings together residents and faculty from across our department, including primary care physicians, FM obstetrical providers, hospitalists, behavioral health providers, sociologists, and admissions staff. Our central focus is on actively combatting racism as well as identity-based discrimination that leads to structural forms of inequality. 

One of our roles is to coordinate and collaborate with the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, the Graduate Medical Education department, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the UMass Memorial Health Care system in their ongoing efforts to fight racism and systemic inequalities, including through multidisciplinary efforts like the UMass Memorial Maternity Center Anti-Racism Task Force.

We are also working to incorporate broad changes into our didactics curriculum and faculty development, with the underlying goal of denouncing race-based medicine as well as holding the medical field accountable for historically prejudicial policies and practices. This includes materials to help faculty determine if their presentations reflect diverse patient populations and use fully inclusive language.

Didactic facilitators will be asked to include material on how the topic area interacts with social inequalities, such as the role of environmental racism in asthma, food insecurity and its relationship to diabetes, the controversy over measuring kidney function differently based on race, the pervasiveness of exclusive training in white skin tones for dermatology topics, disparities in treatment and diagnosis of mental health conditions based on race and gender, the fraught history of the gender dysphoria diagnosis, etc.

Finally, we are committed to establishing competency milestones to ensure the residents we graduate have the knowledge and tools to address systemic inequalities in their current and future practice. 

                                                      SOAR Leadership Council for 2020-21 

  Paul Daniel, MD (he/him/his)
Family Medicine Hospitalist, UMass Memorial

“The pursuit and attainment of social equity will lead us to a world where we may be physically and culturally different but equal in opportunity and resources.”

Becca Gwaltney, MD, PGY-2 (she/her/hers)
Resident, Family Health Center of Worcester

“The lynching of George Floyd triggered a revolution - leading to a nation-wide introspective look at the systemic racism and white supremacy that are inherent in the very foundations of our country. That self-reflection and call to action should extend into every organization and bastion of privilege - not least of which is the medical community, which has played a large role in the unjust health outcomes of marginalized communities.

It is our duty as physicians to fight for our patients and amplify the voices of those who have previously been silenced. By striving to diversify our residency, and thereby the future physician leaders of our community, we aim to address the inequality and inequity at work in the medical field.”



Jordan Howard-Young, MD, PGY-3 (he/him/his)
Chief Resident, Family Health Center of Worcester

“As a cis-gendered member of the queer community with a complicated relationship to my Latinx heritage, I am constantly aware of my privilege. My mom worked in brutal heat as a construction worker amidst a choking atmosphere of toxic masculinity, providing for us paycheck to paycheck to keep the lights on (most days).

She taught me to pay attention to my privilege and to appreciate the innate dignity of all human beings, regardless of the color of their skin, the love in their heart, the gender of their spirit, the language of their intellect, the height of their social status, the culture of their origin, or the shape of their bodies. Privilege built on inequality, exploitation, oppression, and hate has only one just use: it must be leveraged for fundamental change. May we listen more humbly, work more diligently, and always remember that we are not the center of this story.”


Jeanna Lee, PhD (she/her/hers)
Clinical Health Psychologist, Hahnemann Family Health Center 

Reducing stigma and other barriers people experience accessing and receiving high-quality healthcare is a goal shared by the disciplines of psychology and family medicine. As behavioral science faculty in the WFMR, I am accountable to these values and my participation in this task force is an actualization of my intent; I am excited to be part of a team focused on reducing the systemic bias inherent in graduate medical education and the provision of healthcare.”


Claudia Pierre, MD (she/her/hers)
Director of Perinatal Services, Family Health Center of Worcester

“This work isn’t just important to me because of the need to fight racism. We need to build a safer environment for providers and patients regardless of culture, gender identity, sexuality, or any other identity group that faces discrimination and oppression.”

    Maggie Pollard, MD, PGY-2 (she/her/hers)
Resident, Barre Family Health Center

"In Family Medicine, and in all medicine, social equity and inclusion is not optional. Awareness and action regarding the correction of social inequities is necessary to ensure that patients have access to the care they need. Families with social and economic capital cannot and should not be better cared for than families who have been arbitrarily deemed by society to have less, and so we work to remedy this illness in our society in the best way we know how: through family medicine."


Ginny Van Duyne, MD (she/her/hers)
Program Director, Worcester Family Medicine Residency

"My privilege as a straight, cis-gendered, non-disabled, white woman means I can never fully understand the prejudice and oppression many of my patients, colleagues, friends, and community members experience.  I am dedicated to recruiting and fostering a diverse residency community that is accepting and safe for residents of all identities and social groups.  In participating in this culture of empathy, our residents become providers dedicated to creating safe spaces for our patients who experience structural racism and social inequalities and collaborating with the community to combat these social injustices."


Pratiksha Yalakkishettar, MD (she/her/hers)
Resident, Hahnemann Family Health Center

"Antiracism and social justice is something that I wish to dedicate my life and career towards. It’s hard to summarize the importance of this in my life, however the underlying tie to my passions, actions, and hopes lies with the stories of the numerous patients, staff, colleagues, and other people whom I have met whose life experiences were inevitably affected by injustice and inequities. It is the elusive what-may-be-in-an-equitable-world that I hope to continue to strive toward together. There is so much that needs to be done and I’m so grateful to be among peers and colleagues who are current and future leaders in social justice and equity work.”


Reza Abdavies,
medical scribe at Hahnemann Family Health Center. 
Photo by Henry Del Rosario, MD for the Workers of Worcester project. Read Reza’s story here.