Dear USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology Community:
I write to you hoping that each of you and your loved ones are well and safe during this tumultuous time. However, I know that many of you are also dealing with intense feelings of heartbreak, frustration, and isolation due to recent events, which are also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that has already disproportionately impacted older adults and communities of color.
The horrific and heart-wrenching events of the last few weeks are unfortunately also part of a tragic and recognizable pattern for people of color, especially members of the Black community. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others have underscored the need to address injustice and prejudice everywhere we find it. No arena should be exempt from self-examination when it comes to bias; not even our most cherished institutions.
Understandably, these tragedies have brought with them anger, desperation, and a heightened sense of urgency for change. The unrest we are currently witnessing is a symptom of the deeper issues we all need to work together to address, including how to dismantle systemic racism and create a culture of understanding, justice, and dignity for everyone.
The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology community has a particularly strong understanding of just how interconnected we all are to one another. We know how critical it is for conversations and communities to span generations, disciplines, and socioeconomic divisions to make meaningful changes in policy, science, and society. We also know how to address tough problems with sound science, innovation, and inclusion in mind.
My hope is that this time of upheaval will compel us to tackle the challenges and have the tough conversations that are needed to bring about comprehensive change. I firmly believe that our school, our university, and the entire Trojan Family can and will come together and use our talents, courage, and compassion to address these critical issues and create a more equal and just society.
Pinchas Cohen, M.D.
Dean, USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology Executive Director, Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center