Dallas surgeon at OHSU talks racism, medical care

"Even though it is difficult and uncomfortable, it is not going to go away"

Dr. Brian Williams visited OHSU to talk about the intersection of racism and medical care. November 30, 2016 (KOIN)
Dr. Brian Williams visited OHSU to talk about the intersection of racism and medical care. November 30, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The trauma surgeon who treated seven police officers shot during a protest this summer in Dallas visited Portland Wednesday to talk about the intersection of racism and medical care at OHSU.

Dr. Brian Williams works at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. He was responsible for providing immediate trauma care after the officers were shot by a sniper, three of them fatally.

Days after the attack, Dr. Williams, a black man, became the embodiment of a complex national relationship between minorities and law enforcement.

Dr. Brian Williams visited OHSU to talk about the intersection of racism and medical care. November 30, 2016 (KOIN)
Dr. Brian Williams visited OHSU to talk about the intersection of racism and medical care. November 30, 2016 (KOIN)

“This killing, it has to stop,” Dr. Williams said at a press conference.”Black men dying and being forgotten. People retaliating against the people sworn to defend us. We have to come together and end all this.”

Dr. Williams’ comments resonated with many Americans, including those in the medical community. As the only African-American surgeon in his hospital’s trauma group, he called the night of the officers a fateful convergence of several elements, and a transformative moment in his life.

In an interview with KOIN-6 Wednesday, Dr. Williams said he’d experienced racism first-hand all his life, and but he’s working to change his response to it since the night the Dallas officers were attacked. He says he wants to address racism in a healthy way by promoting safe discussion.

“It is something that we collectively need to discuss,” he said. “Even though it is difficult and uncomfortable, it is not going to go away”

Dr. Williams spent the first half of the week talking with groups at OHSU, which is one of several hospitals around the country to invite him to speak.

While visiting Portland, Dr. Williams said he’ll be meeting with Portland Police Sergeant Bret Barnum, who had also previously found himself in the national spotlight after a photo of him hugging a black teenager at a protest went viral. Sgt. Barnum and Dr. Williams met earlier this year in New York City and have kept in contact since then.