WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The top doctor at New Hanover Regional Medical Center is now leading one of our state’s oldest professional societies, the North Carolina Medical Society.
During his formal inauguration Friday, Dr. Philip Brown addressed racial injustice in our society and disparities in healthcare naming it as a top priority to leave the earth and field better than he found it.
The program was held virtually via Zoom and live-streamed online.
Dr. Brown is the 167th President of the North Carolina Medical Society.
He addressed members of the society, speaking openly about the lack of diversity among their ranks—touching on social justice issues including the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and urging fellow physicians to be leaders in the pursuit of health equity.
He also called the group a ‘little bit of the problem’ recognizing that as the 167th president in 171 years since the organization’s founding he is the 160th ‘regular white guy’ to be president.
“What’s been the cost of that exclusionary perspective? Well we don’t know for sure, but what we do know is where we stand in overall health and we do know that it’s 100% accurate to say that we’ve lost all kinds of opportunities to bring in different expertise and different perspectives into our society,” he said.
He said the group was made entirely of men from 1849-1872 when the first woman was accepted, but it was not until 1957 when two African-Americans were admitted as ‘subordinate members in a scientific category’ and the bylaws were not changed to be inclusive until 1965.
“I’m not saying our role is to fix it but I’m telling you our influence is mighty important," he said to fellow physicians. "Racial justice is a part of health and our pledge is to help North Carolinians. I’m encouraged...I’m truly encouraged that we have the right people who are ready to make tough decisions to take us to some different places in policy, to make some things happen.”
Dr. Brown also said he’s encouraged that his society is ready with a 10-year “healthy North Carolina” plan to try to better healthcare across our state in the hopes of improving the current ranking of 36th in the nation.
“The health of the citizens of North Carolina is terrible," he said to the group. "The health of North Carolina is terrible. Right now, our state is ranked number 36th in the 50 states in a nation that’s not ranked very highly for health among its global peers.”